Orthodox doctors wrestle with ethics of ‘assisted suicide’

The Canadian Jewish News

Barbara Silverstein

Dr. Albert Kirshen said it’s just a matter of time before one of his patients asks him for assistance to die. Kirshen, an observant Jew who is a physician at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care at Mount Sinai Hospital, said he is bracing himself for the inevitable.

Kirshen is “personally conflicted” and struggling with the new Supreme Court-mandated policy that will permit physician-assisted death (PAD), he said, explaining that while the medical college will require him to accommodate a patient’s request to die, Jewish law does not permit him to make a referral for the termination of a life.

Kirshen spoke to the issue at a town hall meeting on “the implications of the proposed federal assisted suicide legislation on the practice of medicine,” held March 7 at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto. About 300 people, many of them physicians, packed the shul’s social hall to learn more about the issue from an Orthodox perspective that reflected the views of rabbis, physicians and a legal expert. . . [Full text]


Jewish physicians’ freedom of conscience and religion and the Carter Case

Wagner-Sidlofsky LLP
Reproduced with permission

Charles Wagner* and Adam Hummel*

How does the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)1 (“Carter”) impact on the religious Jewish doctor? Will this landmark decision bring into conflict these doctors’ freedom of conscience and religion with their professional obligations? The Carter case sets aside federal criminal laws as they relate to physician assisted suicide. It stands for the proposition that individuals who are suffering unbearably have a constitutional right to a physician-assisted suicide. Canada now joins only eight other countries in the world that have decriminalized physician-assisted suicide in recent years. This is a fundamental change in the law.

Previously, in the 1993 decision of Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney-General)2, the SCC confirmed the criminal sanctions as they related to physician-assisted suicide, while justifying their ruling by citing the protection of the sanctity of life. Given the importance of Carter, the authors will consider some of the main concepts discussed in the decision, and consider how the SCC’s position has changed over the last 22 years. . . [Full text]