Rabbi Yosef Glassman, who is a geriatric physician, on Monday appeared before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Paul Innes in Mercer County, asking to be allowed to continue his legal battle against the state’s “medical aid in dying law” which Glassman believes “legalizes murder,” NJ.com reported.
The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1, but Judge Innes issued a temporary restraining order in response to Glassman’s complaint that the Murphy administration failed to spell out how the law should be applied. But on August 27, an appellate court overturned the lower court’s order, ruling the state provided sufficient instruction guidance. The state Supreme Court then let the ruling stand on the same day.
Glassman, alongside Hindu pharmacist Manish Pujara and Anthony Petro, a terminally ill cancer patient, want to take their fight past the state’s supreme court, through the Federal courts system. But Assistant Attorney General Melissa Dutton Schaffer asked Judge Innes to toss the lawsuit, saying it rehashed ethical and religious objections which the state legislature had debated before approving the law last spring.
The New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act passed after close to eight years of legislative hearings, and was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on April 12. The law authorizes the practice in which mentally capable adults, with six months or less to live, can request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could decide to take in order to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully.
Participation in the medical aid in dying is voluntary, according to the new law; however, doctors who refuse to participate are compelled to pass on their patient’s case to another doctor who is willing to assist the patient.
Modern Jewish poskim are divided on euthanasia between those who forbid it outright (Rabbis David Bleich and Eliezer Waldenberg) and those who recognize some form of passive euthanasia (Rabbis Moshe Feinstein, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Moshe Tendler).
According to Rabbi Bleich, man does not enjoy the right of self-determination with regard to questions of life and death. Our Sages wrote, “Against your will you live; against your will you die.” Only the Creator may relieve man of his life, even when it has become a burden rather than a blessing.
Rabbis Moshe Feinstein and Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled that a dying patient should not be kept alive by artificial means where the treatment does not cure the illness but merely prolongs the patient’s life temporarily and the patient is suffering great pain. They also ruled that pain relief medicine can be given even though it may hasten death, as long as the dose is not certain to kill, and the intention is not to kill but to relieve pain.