In late October I submitted the following testimony before the Joint Public Health Committee of the legislature in support of H.B. 1991,
“The Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act” which would create a compassionate aid-in-dying law in our state. If passed, Massachusetts would join Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and California in providing its citizens with important decision-making abilities when confronted with a terminal illness. An additional 20-plus states are now considering such legislation. In 2013, in a ballot initiative, Massachusetts voters very narrowly defeated such a proposal. There is good reason to hope that a legislative approach will be successful this time.
If this issue engages you, I encourage you to consult resources created by Compassion & Choices (https://www.compassionandchoices.org/what-you-can-do/in-your-state/massachusetts/) and to be in touch with your legislators to tell them of your support for this effort.
“My name is Elias Lieberman and I serve as the rabbi of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation on Cape Cod, a position I have held for the past twenty-five years. I am grateful for the opportunity to offer testimony today in support of The Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act.
I have, in the past, served as a hospice chaplain and I bring to this moment decades of experience serving the needs of families as they contend with end of life issues. I have been witness to good deaths and bad deaths; I have seen members of my community pass from life serenely and I have watched them endure suffering that none of us would wish for ourselves or anyone we love.
In Jewish tradition, a frequently heard toast is “L’chayim”, a Hebrew expression that means “To life”. In truth, mine is a faith tradition that deems precious the gift of life we are granted. But mine is also a tradition that rejects the notion that there is anything inherently redemptive about suffering.
The wisdom found in the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “there is a time to be born and a time to die.” I have come to believe that there is, sometimes, a time for an individual to make the informed decision to bring his/her life to an end with compassionate support and with the safeguards incorporated into this proposed legislation.
As a person of faith and as someone who chose a profession in which I am expected to offer guidance and support to those facing the ultimate in existential questions, I believe firmly that every individual should be afforded the right to end life when suffering renders living intolerable.
I believe that life must be infused with meaning and purpose and when it is no longer possible for us to attain either, because of the suffering induced by illness, a compassionate alternative must be available to us, one that lies at the core of this proposed legislation.
I do not presume to speak for all Jews or for Judaism; I do presume to offer my experience and my convictions gained over the course of my career ministering to the dying and to their loved ones. I urge you to grant the precious gift of autonomy to those whose suffering will be unendurable and for whom a release from a life of suffering would be the greatest of blessings.”