By: Shimmy Blum. As some members of the New Jersey legislature work to make the Garden State the sixth state to allow physician assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, Agudath Israel of America is at the forefront in aggressively fighting that devastating move.
The “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” passed the State Assembly with 41 votes – the minimum needed – last month, and is now up for a full vote on the Senate floor. In the event that it passes the Senate, the decision would fall to Governor Chris Christie on whether to sign or veto the bill.
On Monday, Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath Israel of America, expressed Torah Jewry’s vehement opposition to the proposed law to the Senate Health Committee members. Rabbi Schnall told the Committee of Agudath Israel’s long history of representing Torah observant Jews in America – and why this battle is particularly important: “Informed by classical Jewish tradition which teaches that all human life is sacred, and possessed of the firm view that laws that undermine the sanctity of human life send a message that is profoundly dangerous for all of society, Agudath Israel’s interest in the issue of legalizing suicide is especially keen.”
In addition to articulating the religious-moral opposition to physician assisted suicide, Agudath Israel’s testimony laid out a clear legal case for the government to ban the practice, and noted that even some that are pro the bill from the medical community oppose the idea of allowing physicians to participate in patients’ decision to end their life
Agudath Israel is also engaged in an aggressive lobbying campaign amongst individual state legislators to encourage them to vote against the law, and urge the public to contact their local legislators as well and encourage them to vote against the bill.
Rabbi Schnall says that, per the directive of the organization’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America (Counsel of Torah Sages), the law presents a threat beyond its immediate repercussions. “If it becomes law, the assisted suicide bill can directly imperil even Orthodox Jews who would not willingly choose death, Heaven forbid,” says Rabbi Schnall. “There is a very real concern of a slippery slope, where doctors, hospitals and insurers can pressure patients diagnosed with a terminal illness , people suffering from mental illness and individuals with disabilities to make the wrong choice.”