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author biography
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow started his rabbinic career at fifteen years of age when he was invited to congregations the world over to deliver guest sermons and to lead services. Rabbi Lazer received his rabbinic education through the Chabad Yeshiva system and was ordained in 1995 at the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York.
A prolific write, he is the author of more than one hundred and fifty articles that appear regularly in both print and online publications. He is the author of a weekly Torah essay that is distributed via email and is published on numerous web sites.
Rabbi Lazer serves as rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah and resides in London Ontario with his wife and four children.

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What`s the Jewish Take on Assisted Suicide?
Filed under Science, Judaism, Opinion Editorials, Health & Fitness, Family life – on Monday, May 12, 2008 – By: Gurkow, Rabbi

It’s forbidden to help someone take their own life
Rabbi Gurkow: Welcome to the Rabbi’s one on one chat room, how can I help you today?

jewishscoller: What’s the Jewish take on assisted suicide?

Rabbi Gurkow: It is forbidden to take one’s own life or to help another take theirs.

jewishscoller: But why, what’s so bad about putting somebody out of their misery? …I am 100% against it, I just want to get more details about it.

Rabbi Gurkow: Let me ask you if you think it is okay to help a young functional man or woman out of their misery because they want you to.

jewishscoller: No, but what if they are not functional? What if they have no way out, no way to fight it?

Rabbi Gurkow: What is the difference to you between one who is old and non-functional and young and depressed and therefore non-functional?

jewishscoller: There is no difference.

Rabbi Gurkow: If there is no difference, then would you support killing off a nice thirty-year-old man who has gotten so depressed as to lose the will to love and now wants to die?

jewishscoller: No, but [he has] a choice, God gave us that ability, unlike the angels.

Rabbi Gurkow: So you are saying that you would agree to take this person’s life? If we are repulsed by suicide, we ought be repulsed by also by euthanasia. What is your reasoned response?

jewishscoller: I do not agree to take someone’s life, for it is HaShem’s decision for when a person should rise and perish.

Rabbi Gurkow: That is a faith reply. Now what is your reasoned reply?

jewishscoller: It is wrong to take a life of an innocent man just because he is depressed or sick.

Rabbi Gurkow: Why? What if he wants to go? We talk about living wills, and if we knew that Terri [Schiavo] wanted to die, we would agree to kill her, right? So why is it different for a young man who wills it?

jewishscoller: This is not about Terri, this is about Jack.

Rabbi Gurkow: It is not about anyone; it is about the issue. I don’t know who jack is.

jewishscoller: Jack Keorkian, a man who took the life of innocent people in an act of assisted suicide and got sentenced to jail. I am debating to keep him there and not legalize it.

Rabbi Gurkow: Ah, that Jack.

jewishscoller: That Jack.

Rabbi Gurkow: My argument is simply that if an elderly sick person has the right to end his or her life, then so does a young vibrant man. If we have that right, then we all do, and if we don’t, then we all don’t. So, why are we so against killing a young man who wants to give up his life and commit suicide? What is the fundamental difference between the two?

jewishscoller: And if there is a legal option for death, more people will be doing it.

Rabbi Gurkow: The only reason we distinguish the young from the old, the healthy from the sick, is because we receive feedback from them and when we stop receiving feedback, we tend to feel unappreciated and tell ourselves that it is a waste. We are against suicide, then, for personal, selfish reasons, not for value-of-life reasons. When people realize that, with a start they tend to understand that there really is no difference between healthy and non-healthy living people, and if we are repulsed by suicide, then we ought to be repulsed also by euthanasia.

jewishscoller: I thank you, rebbi, for your advice. I must go now, but I respect your opinion and I like how you presented it.
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