One of the few common denominators prevalent in a wide array of cultures, countries and generations was a reverence for life, particularly for one’s own or that of a close relative. It was long understood to be a fundamental, self-understood truth, an essential part of being human. Murder was always considered among the most heinous of crimes, and conversely, saving a life was the noblest of endeavors. Family members routinely spent, borrowed and begged astronomical sums of money and exerted every possible effort to try to keep a relative alive — under all circumstances.
During the past few decades, there has been much debate over how death is to be defined, and how an individual in a seemingly irreversible vegetative state should be treated. These tragic cases present complex halachic questions, but what is often seen by doctors or even by governmental officials as standard protocol could be tantamount to murder under Jewish law.
In recent years, the moral decadence of contemporary society has reached yet another low as euthanasia — the practice of putting to death fully conscious individuals suffering from an incurable disease — is becoming more and more acceptable.
What was long deemed inconceivable is now acceptable in many quarters, as contemporary society moves ever closer to the culture of Sedom and Amorah and rationalizes it as humane.
Last week, Belgian lawmakers voted to extend the country’s existing euthanasia law to children under 18. Belgium’s euthanasia law, passed in 2002, previously applied only to adults. The neighboring Netherlands allows euthanasia for children as young as 12, providing their families agree.
“A child is to be nurtured and protected, all the way to the end, whatever happens,” Laurent Louis, an independent House member said as he explained why he voted against the bill. “You don’t kill it.”
But his colleagues firmly disagreed, and the bill was overwhelmingly passed.
As House of Representative members cast their ballots and an electronic tally board lit up with enough green lights to indicate the measure would carry, a lone protester in the chamber shouted “Assassins!”
How right that protester is.
Only the most depraved minds can seek to legalize what essentially is cold-blooded murder, and then proceed to call it an act of mercy.
Here in the United States, what supporters insist on calling the “assisted dying” movement, but would be more accurately described as an assisted killing movement, is gaining traction.
Last month, a New Mexico judge ruled that terminally ill patients have a fundamental right “to aid in dying,” and that medical professionals and others who aid such individuals in taking their own lives could not be prosecuted. Vermont, Oregon, Montana, and Washington State already have laws legalizing such actions, and similar bills are being introduced in Connecticut and other states.
These laws specifically state that patients must be mentally competent in order to be eligible. In other words, the men and women being put to death are able to communicate with those around them and fully aware of what is transpiring.
Yet instead of helping these ill individuals to deal with the depression they are feeling, and to make their life as pain-free and valuable as possible, medical professionals and relatives are actually encouraging them, and helping them commit suicide. In the process, the value of life is wholly obliterated.
It is imperative that we recognize that the acts protected by these laws are, in themselves, assisted murder.
For Jews, the sanctity of life is an integral part of our tradition. The Torah obligates us to violate the laws of Shabbos — and even of Yom Kippur — when there is only a possibility that a person’s life is in danger. We recognize the reality that every breath is a precious gift; every moment of life an invaluable opportunity. As long as one lives, one can accomplish. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, when suffering from the most devastating of illnesses, a patient can be a beacon of light, a source of strength and inspiration for family and friends.
As the remnants of the shaky walls of morality continue to disintegrate, life — long the most hallowed of concepts — has become another victim of liberal society.
While our fervent protests are unlikely to change the minds of those for whom life has no intrinsic meaning, at the very least we must do all we can to ensure that we are not influenced by the decadence that surrounds us.