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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

Compassionate and Comfort Care Decisions at the End of Life

Adopted by the General Assembly
November 30 - December 3, 1995 Atlanta

Compassionate and Comfort Care Decisions at the End of Life

Background Because the synagogue is the focus of our communal life and the setting of our collective delibera- tions about life's most important events, we affirm the obligation of the synagogue community to educate its members regarding Judaism's belief in the dignity and sanctity of human life.

As the end of life approaches, the choices before us become difficult and troubling. Possibilities of survival engendered by medical technology may also unnaturally prolong the dying process.

Our movement has already affirmed the right to refuse medical treatment that only prolongs the act of dying, but it is clear that not all needs are met by the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment at the end of life. There are those who, nearing the end of life's journey, would choose to live. We have yet to assert the obligations that our community has to those who cannot be cured of their disease but whose future promises nothing but pain and suffering. While acknowledging that many would choose not to endure such a life, most such choices do not need to be made when adequate palliative care and support can be provided.

Guided by the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, we must strive toward an achievable goal, to provide a quality of life that is at least tolerable for each one whose journey ends in pain and suffering. Our effort must ensure that only rarely will that choice be beyond human strength. We assert that most of the tragic choices to end life can be avoided through the combined efforts of caring doctors, clergy, providers, family, and community. By providing caring support for families and assisting in the development of hospices and similar environments where spiritual and physical needs are met, our congregations can help to preserve the meaning and purpose of our lives as we approach the end of the journey.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Address our society's need to provide adequate comfort care at the end of life;

2. Develop and distribute more educational and programmatic material regarding a liberal Jewish approach to end-of-life decisions;

3. Develop and distribute material that would raise awareness of the issues of pain and suffering and quality of life in order to enable sound decision making by all concerned;

4. Encourage the expansion of opportunities for rabbinic and cantorial students and rabbis and cantors in the field to participate in training programs designed to develop skills in end-of- life issues;

5. Call upon our congregations to develop connections with Jewish hospice programs in their communities and to explore their creation where they do not exist; and

6. Call on the Committee on Bio-Ethics to work with the Central Conference of American Rabbis' Committee on Responsa to provide us with guidance with respect to physician- assisted death and active voluntary euthanasia.

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