This column, “God Squad” by Rabbi Marc Gellman examines the moral issues of being honest about terminal illness. Personally, I tend to look at life in terms of “gray areas” rather than black and white. But Rabbi Gellman was clear in his statements:
- The fundamental moral belief about illness is that knowledge conveyed by a doctor belongs to the patient and to no one else.
- As long as therapy is possible, patients ought to take advantage of any clinically proven therapy, however, when therapy is no longer possible it is the patient’s right–and it’s also the right thing to do –to let the end come when it comes. (See my June 29 post “My Counterpart: a Go-To Granny)
- To choose NOT to tell someone they are dying is a paternalistic attitude that is not morally justifiable or spiritually sound. To be deprived of this knowledge is to be deprived of the ability to say goodbye to life and those we love.
I feel that this article will be very reassuring to people who are struggling, or have struggled, with the issue of death and dying. It was also very validating to me, since my life was so profoundly impacted secret-keeping, when my father was lied to about his terminal illness during the late 50’s and early 60’s. (See my August 14 post “Different Perspectives on Grief).
You may want to revisit some of my other older posts about this difficult topic: