Death with a Side of Jack

chartI was reading a sort of article over at Slate and seeing this chart fascinated me. They asked a pool of 560 physicians to watch Jack Kevorkian on Larry King Live, conducting a survey before and after. The video itself is not so relevant as they barely affected the stats, but what fascinated me was that, of all religion-affiliated doctors, the Jewish ones led the most support to physician-assisted suicide (or offered the least resistance, however you want to phrase it), even beating out the Protestants. Granted this is a rough survey, even with a lax percentage of error, I find the survey telling. I have to admit, I am not that well-informed with regard to Jewish doctrines, so I was compelled to look up an explanation to this surprising “revelation”.

The argument “death with dignity” is an oxymoron from a Jewish point of view. The Jewish people have been taught that human life is, in its very essence, dignified and that death can never be so. According to Rabbi Simmons, “a person’s soul is not his to extinguish, and he cannot not direct someone else to assist him in ending his life. Even the removal of a pillow when a person is in death throes, thereby hastening death, is forbidden.” Clearly, suicide and assisted suicide are DEFINITELY off the table. Although it is noted that in very certain cases, it is permitted, it still doesn’t relate to the generous acceptance reflected by the stats, especially for its legalization. And we are not talking about passive euthanasia (withholding of medication, procedure, etc knowing it can lead to death) to which the Jewish movement is supposedly more tolerant of , but physician-assisted (the aggressive kind, mercy-killing, if you will).

Most articles I’ve read support the anti-euthanasia stand, which doesn’t connect– I would love to know how Slate got its respondents. However, to appreciate the data itself, I am also curious of the fact that while inclination to personally perform said act is moderate/mid, support for its legislation is overwhelmingly high, considering it is the same Jewish lot being surveyed. Hm. Interesting.

On the general issue of euthnasia, the most obvious reason of opposition is its being an apparent violation of the Hippocratic oath. The next would be theological/moral implications, easily reflected by the chart, led by the Catholics. This legalization biz is very sticky as it will not only raise questions on the definition of life (and the can of worms that comes with it) , it will raise questions on the reconciliation of faith in the workplace. Can a Catholic doctor refuse performing it? Can a hospital refuse hiring a doctor whose belief might hinder his full function as one?

(to be continued…)

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