Fall 2014News

Euthenasia denounced at ethics conference

The concept of dying with dignity has come under criticism from Rabbi Raphael Afilalo, JGH Chief of Pastoral Services, as nothing but a euphemism that confers social acceptability on curtailing one’s own life or that of another person. “Jewish ethics command patients to seek healing, and physicians to heal,” he said at a day-long symposium on Jewish medical ethics on June 12.

The symposium, organized by Rabbi Afilalo at the Gelber Conference Centre, also heard from speakers who were harshly critical of Bill 52, which the Quebec National Assembly adopted earlier in June to grant terminally ill adult patients the right to assistance from a doctor in hastening death.

The event drew doctors, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals, as well as lawyers and rabbis from a wide array of healthcare institutions, community organizations and private companies. Case studies were presented by healthcare and legal professionals of various religious backgrounds, outlining what they believe are serious ethical problems inherent in Bill 52.

Among the highlights of their remarks:

  • Dr. Gerald Batist, Chief of Oncology and Director of the Segal Cancer Centre at the JGH, recommended listening closely to patients’ concerns. “When a patient says ‘I wish I were dead,’ it is because the pain is bad. What we need to offer is better pain control and psychosocial support. Unfortunately, these resources are not optimized in the current situation.”
  • Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, JGH Executive Director, said palliative care patients “have a right to the same high quality of care as any other patient in this province, but they don’t get it.”

The conference also dealt with the dilemma of allocating limited medical resources in an era of financial restraint. Rabbi Afilalo said if treatment has already begun for the patient whose chances are poor, this care must not be interrupted in favour of another patient with a better chance.

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