The Pagan Impulses behind the “Right-to-Die” Movement

Nov. 30 2017

The much-publicized case of Charlie Gard—an infant afflicted by a rare fatal disorder whose parents were prevented by a British court from taking him to the U.S. for experimental treatment—and the rapid expansion of euthanasia in the Low Countries, where it is routinely administered to the mentally ill, point to the risks of legalizing “physician-assisted suicide.” Assessing the attitudes underlying the “right-to-die” movement, and the inroads these attitudes have already made in the American medical system, Mitchell Rocklin argues that Jews should refrain from joining in:

Having worked as members of the clergy at healthcare facilities for years, my colleagues and I have witnessed a genuine “culture of death,” wherein too many of those who ought to be healers instead become agents of death. Some are well-meaning, seeking to help patients avoid what they believe to be needless suffering. Others may be motivated by financial considerations, such as saving medical facilities money. Whatever the rationale, too many of us have witnessed premature hospice visits and recommendations to withhold treatments. . . .

Pagans, including ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans, all believed death with honor—usually typified by death in battle—to be far superior to ordinary death. How people died was far more important than how they lived. Not so for Judaism, which emphasized that the content of life is what matters, and that even martyrdom is characterized by sacrificial dedication rather than glory. . .

This difference of opinion had major ramifications. For instance, while Romans commonly glorified suicide, Jews vehemently opposed shortening a life. . . . The “death-with-dignity” movement seeks to fulfill an age-old pagan impulse: to control the circumstances of death to give it meaning. This is, however, an attempt to escape what Judaism teaches us: that there can be no death with dignity, only life with dignity. . . . To argue otherwise is a fatal conceit for true human dignity, resulting in undervaluing the importance of living every moment of life to its fullest.

This is not to minimize the existence of heartrending cases involving pain and suffering. But attempts to end pain do not justify creating a legal regime to enlist the help of healers in support of those who resort to extreme measures.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Euthanasia, Judaism, Medicine, Paganism, Religion & Holidays

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism