So many families, some of which you know, have had to face difficult decisions regarding a loved one’s final months or days. For too long, political issues have tried to pigeon-hole this issue, failing to take into consideration that these are very personal moments between a person and a family. A front page article in Sunday August 31 New York Times is showcasing the fact that the need for these conversations may, at last, be shredding some of the political manipulation that has been so much a part of the dialogue. “End- of-Life Talks May Finally Overcome Politics” is a good overview of the issue and discusses the fact that “People are living longer with illnesses, and many want more input into how they will spend their final days, including whether they want to die at home or in the hospital, and whether they want full-fledged life-sustaining treatment, just pain relief or something in between.” The article discusses the trend for insurers to cover these ‘advanced care planning conversations” and the fact that the AMA is advocating Medicare compensate doctors who have these conversations with patients.
For many years we have been advocating the need for families to have discussions about end to life issues. The advances in medical technology have made these conversations more and more of a necessity. In our travels around congregations doing programming in this area, there is a constant plea to leadership to make sure that there is an annual educational forum that explains the Jewish approaches to end of life decision-making. An increasing number of states in the USA have passed legislation that allows for greater choice at life’s end. Organizations such as C-TAC (Coalition to Transform Advanced Care) have begun working in earnest on the slew of issues associated with this issue. Jewish denominations have also created tools for congregations and organizations , text based, that can aid these conversations. This issue will continue to be a concern as our generation ages and, in true Boomer style, wishes to exert our own input on the decisions that will impact our own life—even when that life ebbs.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
** check out the Jewish Sacred Aging workshop offering “Making Sacred Decisions”
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.