Jewish Medical Directives for Health Care

woman researching Jewish medical directives for health care on computer

Creating an advance health care directive allows you to provide guidance on your health care preferences and control who can make health care decisions on your behalf.

If you are Jewish and preparing to make your own advance health care directive, you may wish to gain a sense of Jewish teachings concerning medical decisions.

According to the Rabbinical Assembly, conservative Jewish teaching concerning medical decisions centers on two truths:

  1. We have the responsibility to care for ourselves and seek medical treatment needed for our recovery
  2. Euthanasia or assisted suicide is wrong

The Rabbinical Assembly writes that using those two truths as guides for making medical decisions results in a large area of consensus among Jewish law experts founded on (a) the value of life and the individual’s responsibility to protect his or her life and seek healing and (b) a significant autonomy in which a patient can make decisions about treatment when risk or uncertainty are involved.

Weighing the expected burdens, risks, and benefits of a particular treatment decision is often very difficult. In making health care decisions while they have capacity, Jews can consult with their medical and spiritual advisors to arrive at objective and honest decisions.

To help ensure that decisions are made in accordance with their faith in circumstances in which they do not retain capacity, Jews can create advance health care directives with instructions that all health care decisions should be consistent with Jewish teaching. A simple sentence like the below from Cedars Sinai Hospital may be sufficient:

Sample clause: As a Jew, it is my desire, and I hereby direct, that all decision-making about my healthcare be done in accordance with Jewish law and custom.

In addition to this statement of belief, many Jewish inspired advance health care directive forms include the contact information for one or more rabbis with whom the agent acting under a medical power of attorney should consult to help determine the requirements of Jewish law and custom. Finally, choosing a fellow Jew to serve as your agent offers helps ensure that your agent will respect and make decisions in accordance with your Jewish values.

Sources:

Jewish Medical Directives for Health Care”, The Rabbinical Assembly (1994).

Jewish Advance Healthcare Directive”, Cedar Sinai Hospital.