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Ministerial committee to consider ‘death by prescription’ bill

The ISRAELHAYOM newsletter reports 24 January 2014:

A Ministerial Committee on Legislation plans to debate a new bill that seeks to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
The proposal, dubbed the “death by prescription” bill, was drafted by MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid). It will be presented to the committee soon. Shelah aims to amend the existing Terminal Patient Law, which was passed in 2005 and regulates the medical treatments offered to terminally ill patients, and their right to demand or refuse to use drastic lifesaving measures.

While the existing law allows doctors to refrain from prolonging the life of a terminally ill patient whose life expectancy is under six months, it prevents patients for actively seeking medical assistance to end their lives. The amendment will allow a terminally ill patient to ask his doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of sedatives to end his suffering. The proposal stipulates that any such request must be made in front of witnesses and on multiple occasions.

Doctors would still be barred from administering the lethal dose, and patients would have to take it themselves, exempting doctors from any criminal liability for their death.

The bill has sparked controversy in the medical community in Israel, and many doctors have urged Shelah’s fellow Yesh Atid member Health Minister Yael German to oppose the bill.
“Doctors in Israel have earned the public’s trust because of our outstanding dedication to saving lives,” Israel Medical Association Chairman Dr. Leonid Idelman said. “This trust will be detrimentally harmed if, heaven forbid, any doctor pursues euthanasia.”

In a letter to German, Idelman noted that the World Medical Association’s official position on the matter states that euthanasia is unethical.

Minister Uri Orbach says he will oppose the legislation of the MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid) proposal to allow doctors to prescribe suicide medication for self-administration in case of terminal illness.

“The health system cannot take responsibility for the euthanasia of terminal patients. Anyone who wants to take their own lives is not under the care of the state,” said Orbach.