ISSUE #5
END-OF-LIFE ISSUES:
WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS?

QUESTION
When it comes to complex end-of-life issues, is it sufficient for patients and families to simply allow their doctor to make decisions on their behalf, on account of the doctor's expert medical knowledge and experience? 

ANSWER
  • Complex end-of-life decisions are often intensely tied in with ethical issues that are highly sensitive to religious and moral principles about the meaning and value of life. The doctor's role is not to be an expert in these aspects of this field. 
  • Therefore, it is often not sufficient for patients and families to allow the doctor to make complex end-of-life decisions on their behalf. 
  • Instead, the doctor's medical role and expertise is limited to providing a patient with information about his/her current health status (diagnosis), and their expert estimate or prediction of the patient's future health status depending on various treatment alternatives (prognosis).
  • It is then the patient's responsibility to come to a decision, which is based on the ethical approach and religious beliefs of their own faith. 
  • Consequently, when approaching the decision-making process for any end-of-life issue, Jewish patients and families should always consult with a Rabbi who is knowledgeable and experienced in the field. Using the medical information provided by the doctor, the Rabbi will guide the patient to make decisions in accordance with Torah law and Jewish faith.
  • In forthcoming issues of the "Twilight Illuminations" journal, we will delve into some examples of end-of-life issues and decisions that commonly call for deep Rabbinic consultation and guidance. 
 
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)