MAID and spirituality: A Jewish perspective

News & Updates | July 15, 2022 | Sarah Dobec

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A photo of Rabbi Eva Goldfinger

Canada has one of the most progressive and accessible assisted dying laws in the world. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized medical assistance in dying as a constitutionally-protected right in 2015. We know that 87% of Canadians support the right to medical assistance in dying for those who meet the eligibility criteria, but some Canadians still grapple with the option to end one’s intolerable suffering because of their religious and spiritual beliefs. 

In this series – MAID and spirituality – we share insights from various religious leaders and people who are in support of medical assistance in dying and how they reconcile this position in their faith that might have an opposing stance. 

Eva Goldfinger has been an ordained spiritual leader of Oraynu and the Secular Humanistic Jewish Movement since 1988. She is a therapist with a successful private practice for individuals, couples and families. Eva is a supporter of Dying With Dignity Canada and an advocate for medical assistance in dying. Eva generously offered her time to discuss her view on medical assistance in dying, her life experiences and her faith – Secular Humanistic Judaism. 

Eva’s faith, in which she is a spiritual leader, is Secular – of the world, Humanistic – dealing with human beings, their needs and the natural world, Judaism – the monotheistic religion of the Jewish people. In the Jewish faith, it is stated that ‘thou shall not kill.’ From Eva’s perspective, medical assistance in dying does not conflict with this commandment. 

She explained, “MAID is about not prolonging suffering; it would be unethical to do so. It is our responsibility to others to support them in their beliefs, help them live a good life, and not control them. It is our responsibility to support others when they choose to end their suffering, it is their choice.” 

Eva believes that spiritual leaders need to guide people based on place and time. “It is 2022, in this time we are supporting people through issues such as COVID-19, and a longer life expectancy that comes with a higher chance of chronic disease, dementia and potential suffering. The people who form my congregation are intelligent and informed people, I need to meet them where they are and support their health care decisions, including to end suffering through medical assistance in dying.” 

At the age of 62, Eva’s mother began to develop Alzheimer’s dementia. She lived for 12 years at the Baycrest long-term care facility where Eva visited and cared for her every day. Eva remembers her as a vivacious and curious woman, but after her diagnosis, she slowly lost her personality and zest for life. Eva recalls her mother expressing, “This is no life.” It was difficult to watch her mother shrink and lose her quality of life; this experience motivated her to join the movement to legalize assisted dying. 

Eva believes that we all deserve choice at the end of life and that no one – clinicians, religion or the government – should be able to interfere with a person’s decision to end their suffering. “We need to support the people in our communities – our family, our neighbours and or our congregations – to live the best life, and to choose a good death.” 

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