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Living Will Advance Directive

Question:
לכבוד הרבנים הנכבדים, I was recently asked by an elderly Jewish ( non observant) lady to help her with a living will advance directive which would outline her wishes regarding extent of treatments being provided for her during an acute illness. The will would contain statements outlining possible end of life scenarios for which patient would tick the box which states

‘I do not want to be kept alive by medical treatment. I want medical treatment to be limited to keeping me comfortable and free from pain.
I refuse all other medical treatment ‘

As her doctor she asked me to discuss with her the implications of having a living will advance directive. Also, she asked to be provide with a blank copy of this document and asked whether she could be helped by me to complete it if necessary.

In view of the sanctity of life in halacha, can a doctor provide a copy of this will and are there any circumstances under which he can help the patient complete the form by being one of the co-witness signatories? Furthermore if I decline to complete the form, the patient would ask another Jewish doctor colleague who is non observant to complete the form with her. Does that make a difference to the observant doctor who was originally asked or not?

Answer:

The above text for an advance directive, is not written in accordance with halacha. The wording leaves open the possibility of withholding treatment of an ill person who is far from their deathbed. As such, if you can speak with the patient and have a positive effect in this regard to help make halchically sound decisions, and/or change the text of the directive it would not only be permissible but commendable to involve yourself and help. Otherwise aiding her would be a violation of “mesaya ldvar aveira” actively aiding a person to violate Torah Law. In which case you should remove yourself from the situation and kindly request that she seek the help of another doctor.

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