QUESTION: Judaism and End of Life

Question: “I would like to share my Hospice frustration with you and my culture. I am a Jew. I am an 11th Hour volunteer and a bereavement counselor in a voluntary capacity. My soap box is about the importance of Hospice education but I can't reach my people because death is not understood as part of the process. Help me please!”

To the person that wrote this question I am not clear what “death is not understood as part of the process” means. If you could clarify I will try to address your question again. In the mean time, here are the thoughts that occurred to me as I read your post.

My research for the above question lead me to My Jewish Learning web site. Two articles, Two Views on End of LIfe Issues and End of Life Issues, gave simple, understandable explanations, of addressing end of life issues from a religious standpoint. As well as outlining the dos and don’ts of treatment, pain management, nutrition and hydration, CPR, Living Wills, DNR and Home Health/Hospice care. It seems the bottom line is to talk with a Rabbi about your specific situation.

In reading the above articles I can appreciate your frustration. There are a lot of different rules and interpretations of those rules. Of course many religions qualify under that statement, not just Judaism.

As a quality not quantity of life advocate my response to all this is: everybody dies and no matter what we do at any given time death will inevitability come. Life is a terminal illness. To address our mortality in a practical way with family discussions, even Living Wills, does not hasten or slow approaching death. It does give guidance and support to family and significant others who someday will have to make decisions, with the help of a Rabbi, regarding care. In our society today we have medicalized dying. We view death as a failure of the medical profession rather than recognize that dying is a social, communal event and an inevitability.

Judaism is not the only religion that struggles. Even those religions that profess a belief in an afterlife express difficulty in letting go of this life.

As I reread this response I see I have no answers for you. Religion and people’s beliefs in their religion supersedes an outsiders ability to make a difference. Even if the difference seems to just be common sense.

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