An Open Letter to Acheinu Kol Bais Yisroel

Health care in the United States is becoming more complex each day. As costs continue to rise and we move closer to the European model of health care, many things we took for granted are quickly changing. Laws being passed state-by-state, and protocols adopted by hospitals, give doctors and hospitals greater power to make medical decisions on your behalf. These decisions may be contrary to your wishes and halachically inappropriate. It is therefore vital for every Jew to have a Halachic Living Will.

National Jewish organizations have addressed this issue. Agudath Israel of America developed a Halachic Living Will, which it calls a “Halachic Medical Directive,” and also created a Center for Culturally Sensitive End-of-Life Advocacy & Counseling called “Chayim Aruchim.” The Rabbinical Council of America has also produced a Halachic Living Will, which it calls a “Halachic Health Care Proxy.” The Orthodox Union, through its Department of Community Services, has a program for awareness and education to explain and promote the signing of a Halachic Living Will. The National Council of Young Israel has held conferences addressing halachic end-of-life concerns. This is a serious life-and-death issue. The time to act is now.

With the support of these national organizations, the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK) has embarked on a national campaign to have every Jewish adult complete a Halachic Living Will and a Health Care Proxy.

NASCK has also created the Emergency Medical Education and Signup (EMES) Campaign and the EMES card. The EMES card is designed to fit in a sleeve with your Driver License or ID so that it is seen by emergency medical responders at a time of emergency. The card is specifically designed to help ensure that Halachah is followed when the agent cannot be located. It also clearly states your objection to autopsy and cremation in cases of sudden death. This card has significant legal effect on its own while encouraging the use of the existing halachic forms.