What Are Jewish Perspectives on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College, based in Jerusalem, wrote the following in an article titled "Ask! - Your Jewish Information Resource: The Jewish View on Euthanasia" on ohr.edu (accessed Oct. 16, 2009):

"Jewish law forbids euthanasia in all forms, and is considered an act of homicide. The life of a person is not 'his' - rather, it belongs to the One Who granted that life. It may be therefore be reclaimed only by the true Owner of that life. Despite one's noble intentions, an act of mercy-killing is flagrant intervention into a domain that transcends this world."

Oct. 16, 2009 - Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College 

J. David Bleich, PhD, a rabbi and Herbert and Florence Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics at Yeshiva University, wrote in Judaism and Healing: Halakhic Perspectives, published in 2002:

"Not infrequently, the patient, if capable of expressing his desires and allowed to follow his own inclinations, would opt for termination of a life which has become a burden both to others and to himself. Judaism, however, teaches that man does not enjoy the right of self-determination with regard to questions of life and death. Generations ago our Sages wrote, 'Against your will you live; against your will you die'... [These words] may be taken quite literally as an eloquent summary of the Jewish view with regard to both euthanasia and the withholding of life-sustaining treatment. Judaism has always taught that life, no less than death, is involuntary. Only the Creator, who bestows the gift of life, may relieve man of that life, even when it has become a burden rather than a blessing."

2002 - J. David Bleich, PhD 

The Chabad-Lubavitch organization wrote in an article titled "Soul Talk: End-of-life Issues and Dilemmas" on chabad.org (accessed Oct. 16, 2009):

"[T]he Torah demands that we look at the following considerations... Dying is a process of separation of body and soul. Sometimes this divorce is sudden; sometimes it is protracted. We have to be careful not to unduly suspend or interrupt this process. Where lies the 'bright line' between hastening death and allowing it carry it course?

Essentially, the key components of Jewish tradition are:
  1. Our life belongs to G-d, who entrusted it to us to care for it and preserve it.
  2. Hence euthanasia, and all forms of it, are rejected by Jewish law. Life is G-d's choice in us. As long as a person breathes and the soul is in the body, life has absolute and irrevocable value."

Oct. 16, 2009 - Chabad-Lubavitch 

Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz, JD, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, wrote in an article titled "Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Halachic Approach," on the Jewish Law website (accessed Oct. 16, 2009):

"The preservation of life has always been regarded as a cardinal value in Judaism...

Granted that there may be occasions when aggressive, life-prolonging treatment need not be administered or may even be discontinued, the allowing of the natural process of death to occur by withdrawal of treatment is a far cry from actively terminating life...

There are a number of situations where, in the face of grave suffering, steps may be taken that would or could hasten death. First, pain-relief medication such as morphine may be administered in spite of the risk that it may induce cardiac arrest, provided that the dose is not definitely lethal and is not administered for the purpose of life termination. Second, a patient may undergo a life-threatening, hazardous procedure which holds out even a slight hope of cure, though there is no obligation to do so. Third, halacha [Jewish law] permits the invocation of prayer that G-d take the person out of their pain and misery. Fourth, under narrowly-defined circumstances, life-sustaining (or death prolonging) treatment such as chemotherapy, or antibiotics may be discontinued; DNR or 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders may be entered. As noted, however, all of this falls far short of actively terminating life."

Oct. 16, 2009 - Yitzchok Breitowitz