A bill allowing “living wills” to determine end-of-life medical treatment was passed by the Italian Parliament, last week.
“The bill presents new opportunities which we need to evaluate on an ad hoc basis. The starting point will be in Jewish Law, Halakhah, that is never to be set aside. The responsibility to decide will be on the individual rabbi who receives the request. If he does have the appropriate expertise on the topic, which let us not forget, is a very complex one, he will need to talk to a more expert fellow rabbi,” the chief rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni explained to Pagine Ebraiche.
Rav Di Segni is a physician and a former vice-president of the Italian Bio-Ethics National Committee. He added that the Orthodox Rabbinate does not hold unanimous positions on the matters covered by the law, and emphasized the necessity of waiting to see how the law is going to be applied.
“The sanctity of life is central and non-negotiable, therefore the scenario of suspending feeding or hydration is strongly opposed: it would mean to make someone die of thirst and hunger. At the same time, we have to consider more extreme situations such as those of patients whose health is deeply compromised”, the rabbi highlighted.
The issue has already been discussed within the Italian rabbinate. “Considering the small numbers of the Jewish community in Italy, there are a very limited number of cases, luckily. But the problem is still a very real one”.