By Rabbi Meir Brody
The NJ Legislature recently passed two bills regarding end of life care. S-2199 establishes an end of life advisory council and S-2197 provides for the establishment of POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) forms which translates a patient’s treatment wishes into a medical order.
While the stated intention of both bills is to protect a patient’s right to control health care decisions, there is a risk that these very same measures may have the exact opposite effect on members of our community who wish to have their health care decisions reflect their religious beliefs and Jewish law.
I had previously met with several legislators to relay our concerns with specific sections of the bills. Now that the bills passed, I met this week with the governor’s office together with Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz who serves on an end-of-life care advisory panel in NY State.
Agudath Israel of NJ will continue to carefully monitor this legislation and work to protect a patient’s right to determine their own health care decisions. Thank you to my colleagues Rabbis Motzen and Biser, and other advisers for their tremendous amount of help and input on this matter.
We recommend that Governor Christie veto S-2197 because it would allow individuals not chosen by a patient to make health care decisions for an incapacitated patient that don’t conform to the patient’s wishes.
We also recommend that the governor veto S- 2199, which would establish an end-of-life advisory panel that we fear would be stacked with those concerned more with hospital cost-cutting than with saving lives.