Aug 10, 2009
In the midst of a national debate over the escalating costs of healthcare, especially in the last years of life, and recognizing the increased lobbying by various hospitals and health care providers to take over decision-making processes at the end of life, the Rabbinical Council of America today published its newly-revised Halachic Health Care Proxy.
The legally-binding Proxy allows one to appoint one's designated representative, empowering that agent to make medical decisions regarding continued treatment in case one is unable to communicate one's wishes appropriately. Morevoer the Proxy is fully in accord not just with civil law, but with Jewish law and tradition.
The RCA's Health Care Proxy was written by a committee of experienced lawyers, doctors, health care professionals, and rabbis. It enables the signer to appoint such an agent (or "proxy"), as well as an alternate agent, in addition to appointing a rabbi and alternate rabbi.
The document does not stipulate particular treatments or situations, and does not attempt to anticipate medical conditions or responses that may arise. Few people are able to anticipate such detailed developments that may or may not occur many years in the future. By designating trusted parties to act in one's stead in case one is personally unable to do so, one allows for reasonable decisions by one's agent, in consultation with an informed rabbi, under all situations.
Besides the Halachic Health Care Proxy itself, the RCA has today also issued a Guidelines document that further reviews the need and the considerations that make the Health Care Proxy so important in the current social, cultural, and economic climate.
As an added benefit, and thanks to the Community Services Department of the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America (the OU), the Health Care proxy can be conveniently registered online, at no cost, with the U.S. Living Will Registry, for instant access in case of need. A wallet size card is also provided.
In issuing its Proxy, the leadership of the RCA urges every individual to have his/her Health Care Proxy form properly completed and duly registered. The RCA's Halachic Health Care Proxy (with the relevant Instructions and Guidelines) can be viewed, downloaded, and printed out, by visiting the homepage of the RCA's website at www.rabbis.org. The forms are also available in hard copy from the RCA.