In advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up hearing scheduled for tomorrow, leaders of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America have written to members of that panel asking them to approve the Pain Relief Promotion Act,” a measure designed to empower physicians to aggressively provide palliative care to patients in pain and to ban physician assisted suicide.
“PRPA” will create additional protections under the law for physicians who use controlled substances to relieve patients’ extreme pain. The measure provides a “safe harbor” for doctors who prescribe controlled substances (ie: narcotics) to reduce pain even if the use of such drugs unintentionally leads to a patient’s death. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly last year. The letter to members of the Judiciary Committee, signed by Union president Dr. Mandell Ganchrow and legal affairs director Nathan Diament, stated that “the policy promoted by this legislation is consistent with ancient Jewish values of recognizing the infinite value and sanctity of human life and seeking to preserve it, while at the same time taking all responsible measures to comfort the ill. We hope the U.S. Senate will act quickly to pass this act, sponsored by Senators Don Nickles (R-Ok) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT).”
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations has been a consistent opponent of legalizing physician assisted suicide in the United States, including having filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing its recognition as a constitutional right in 1996. It has devoted its annual Conference on Law & Public Policy, to be held next week in New York City, to this topic as well.