Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council Urge Supreme Court to Ban Assisted Suicide

Posted on November 12, 1996 In Life Issues, Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), filed a “friend of the court” brief in the United States Supreme Court in support of laws banning physician assisted suicide. The brief was co-authored by IPA Chairman and Columbia Law School Professor Richard Stone, IPA Director Nathan Diament and Joseph Levi of the Manhattan firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler. The Rabbinical Council of America also joined in the brief. The Orthodox Union and the RCA are, respectively, the largest Orthodox Jewish lay and rabbinic organizations in the United States.

The Supreme Court is reviewing the laws of the states of Washington and New York which banned assisted suicide and were struck down as unconstitutional by lower federal appellate courts.

In its brief, the IPA contends that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in striking down Washington’s law on the basis of what the court claimed was a right to die protected by the Constitution. Among its several arguments, the brief contends that such a right is not supported by the traditions and history of the American legal system. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jewish legal teaching, one of the roots of our nation’s laws, is squarely against the active assistance of suicide, including for the terminally ill. The brief also contends that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals erred in striking down New York’s law under the Equal Protection Clause since the state clearly has a rational basis and legitimate interest in banning assisted suicide.

“This is an issue of critical constitutional and moral significance which Jewish tradition clearly speaks to,” said IPA Director Nathan Diament.

“We believe that the recognition of a constitutionally recognized right to die for the terminally ill,” continued Diament, “is a clear statement against the recognition and sanctity of human life; and it is a statement which must be clearly rejected by the Supreme Court.”