ISSUE #10
 
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BEFORE ASKING ABOUT HOSPICE, HONESTLY ASSESS ALL THE REASONS

QUESTION

Our family is seeking spiritual guidance concerning a dilemma about my elderly mother, who has advanced dementia and is unable to eat, communicate, remember, or even recognize her loved ones, to the extent that it has become unbearable to see her like this. The doctor has stated that we have a choice between two options:
  1. Continue trying to extend my mother's life, although this will require a feeding tube, a full-time caregiver, and possibly dialysis and other procedures as well.
  2. Allow my mother to pass away sooner by transferring her to hospice care, meaning that she will be given pain medication and "comfort care" only, and no medical interventions will be made to extend her life.
Does Jewish law allow for us to place my mother in hospice care so that she will be released sooner from her current reality?


ANSWER

First of all, it is vital to recognize that Jewish law considers life as an essential value. At the same time however, Jewish law also places a high value on relieving a patient's suffering. Many other circumstances may also be taken into account when considering end-of-life issues. It requires a Rabbi who is expert in all the relevant fields of Jewish law to be able to properly consider the individual circumstances of a particular case and provide an authentic answer to a question like the one you posed above. Therefore, I applaud you for requesting CMC's assistance in seeking an authoritative answer from a qualified Rabbi.
 
Now, your question may involve factors that are sensitive and emotionally fraught, but they must be faced with the utmost honesty. Thus, it is essential that the information you present to the expert Rabbi includes an absolutely forthright assessment of the extent to which your inclination in favor of transferring your mother into hospice is based on her benefit alone, versus the extent to which this inclination may be based on external factors, such as the following examples:
  • It would ease the family's current physical burden in taking care of the patient;
  • It would decrease the family's financial costs or increase their ability to raise their income;
  • It would allow the family additional time to perform household responsibilities and/or care more fully for their own spouses and children;
  • It would release the family from the burden of an additional ongoing emotional stress.
With best wishes for your mother and all of her loved ones to be blessed with only good health and every kind of blessing - physical, spiritual and emotional.

 
For over two decades, CMC has been counseling patients and family members throughout the Chicago area concerning end-of-life issues such as those mentioned above. CMC connects patients and families with local Rabbonim who are expert in the end-of-life field, so that they may be reassured of having authoritative halachic answers that are tailored to their specific individual circumstances.

To request CMC guidance and/or support regarding an end-of-life issue or for any patient and/or family member struggling with illness, please call CMC or click this link to visit CMC's website.
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Rabbi Aron Wolf
Chicago Mitzvah Campaign
2939 W Touhy Ave
Chicago, IL 60645
1-866-MY RABBI (1-866-697-2224)