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The argument over euthanasia [a Greek word meaning “good death”] and mercy killing has not abated in most countries. Indeed in Israel, the subject of Living Wills has become even more relevant since 2005 with the new law. I have often been asked about it.
This short article is an attempt to review the current position and offer advice. [Need I add that reference to the male includes the female gender? In Law, the male always embraces the female].
If ever one was looking for recent legislation that was so complicated as to render some provisions largely inoperable, one need not look further than this law.
The Objective is thus stated:-
1.(a) “This law is intended to regulate the medical treatment of patients near their death, striking a proper balance between the value of the sanctity of life , the value of a human being’s autonomous will and the importance of the quality of life”.
(b) “This law is based on the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and on the fundamental principles of morality, ethics and religion”.
The law has the assumption “that a person wishes to continue to live, unless the opposite has been proven: the will to continue to live must be assumed, as long as anything different has not been proven beyond all reasonable doubt”.
In essence, the law deals with who and how a person can autonomously record his wishes as a “patient near death who does not want his life to be prolonged” or “a competent person who gives advanced medical directions in which he specifies his desire in respect of future medical treatment.
I will discuss the latter type which brings us to the subject of what, in common parlance, we refer to as Living Wills, and the law as “Advance Medical Directions”.
The law sets out complicated directions as to how to fill in Living Wills and how they are to be kept in a data base established by the Minister.
I had the pleasure of discussing this subject with Mrs. Bina Divon, the current chairperson of the Amuta Lilach which is the Israel Society - To Live and Die with Dignity.
Lilach is the leading organization dealing with this subject in Israel. It has been and still is in the forefront of promoting improved and simpler laws, educating the public, offering members a simple Living Will (also available in English) and providing services. A very unique service is that a member of Lilach [membership is NIS 100 for a single and NIS 160 for a couple, per annum] can deposit his Living Will with Lilach which maintains a 24/7 service to advise hospitals, doctors or family if any emergency arises, whether a particular person has registered a Living Will. This is obviously a matter of great importance.
The Living Wills of Lilach come with clear instructions as to how they are to be filled in, signed and witnessed. Clause 1 sets out the wishes of the signatory regarding being kept alive artificially, Clause 2 states what medical conditions are to be included in 1 naming a number of conditions to be adopted or rejected with room for more to be added, and Clause 3 lists the treatments which are not to be given in the conditions stated..
The advantages of becoming a member of Lilach can be summarized as follows:-
* Their Living Will is simple to complete:
* It is currently recognized by the Health Department when duly witnessed;
* Their depositary for these documents is reliable and available, 24/7;
* They remind members when the five year validity of their Living Wills expires;
* They publish and distribute a useful booklet three times a year and although mostly in Hebrew, there is an English section;
* They have a library which includes many books, periodicals and DVDs in English;
* They have lawyers who volunteer to give advice to members without charge;
* They are in contact with similar organizations throughout the world.
The current President of Lilach is former Supreme Court Judge, Eliahu Matza.
Lilach’s offices are at 59 Bialik Street, Ramat Gan and their phone number is 03 6730577. Their postal address is P.O. Box 8144, Ramat Gan 52181
Lilach has over 10,000 members but is still in need of volunteers to perform various functions. If you are interested, give them a call.
They are making a major contribution to our society and are deserving of our help.
1. The full translation of the law can be obtained from A.G. Publications, 04 825 6104 and firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Clause 2
3. Article three.
4. Clause 31.