Published by Forum Libertas
February 13, 2009

Translated and adapted by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

In Israel the law would have prevented Eluana Englaro’s death.   Although lacking a Christian heritage, the Hebrew country is ruled by a passive euthanasia law that prohibits withholding nourishment and liquids from the patient, as well as “disconnecting” those people who are in a vegetative state, because it is understood that the person cannot make the decision.

The case of Eluana would fall under those conditions because she ceased to receive nourishment and liquids which were keeping her alive, while in Israel a patient’s caretakers are impeded from doing the same.

The law was approved in 2005 under the government of Ariel Sharon and allows people older than 17 years to be “disconnected” under certain circumstances, which do not include patients in a vegetative state nor those cases that require the suspension of feeding and hydration.  However, those who are older than 17 years may avail themselves of passive euthanasia if they have received a diagnosis that limits their life span to less than six months of life.

The law, which rejects active euthanasia in all cases, was born as a result of six years of hard work, consisting of negotiations between politicians, doctors, judges, lawyers, and rabbis.  Abraham Steinberg, Orthodox rabbi and specialist in infant neurology, presided over a committee of 58 members which issued the recommendations of a law that affect those older than 17 years and patients who have a life expectancy no more than 6 months.

One of the complaints of Eluana’s family was the deplorable state of her extremities, which had suffered a progressive deterioration.  With the former Israeli prime minister, the problem has been solved with recuperative treatments and passive exercise.

Paradoxically, Ariel Sharon, who fell into a coma in 2006—days after delivering the text of the proposed law—is in a “vegetative state” and receives assistance for breathing due to a cerebral hemorrhage.  Aside from the fact that his children Omri and Guilad want to keep him alive, the law would not allow his life expectancy to be cut short either.

As was already indicated in the article “Ariel Sharon, One Year in a Vegetative State,” the doctors of the politician recalled cases of unexpected “awakenings” like that of a South American woman who after two years in a coma caused by similar circumstances, little by little began to react until she woke up.

The comparison is interesting.  A country without a Christian tradition possesses legislation regarding euthanasia that approaches that which is desired by the Church in Europe and in Spain.  Some points are also in agreement with the efforts of the Italian government of President Silvio Berrlusconi to present a law that defends the right to life of people like Eluana.

See Original Article in Spanish:
En Israel Eluana no habría muerto