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While Jewish tradition maintains that human life is of infinite value and that its preservation and extension overrides virtually every other religious imperative, relieving pain and allowing for the soul’s peaceful departure are also values well-established in Jewish tradition. Of course there is a moral distinction between hastening death and removing obstacles to its natural progression, but in practice the difference isn’t always easy to discern.

Below is a general overview of a number of issues that commonly arise at life’s end — and how Jewish authorities have weighed in on them. Jewish thinkers often emphasize that specific cases vary substantially and must be considered individually. And while weight is always given to a patient’s wishes, those who are concerned about complying with Jewish law are always urged to consult with trusted advisers.

Read more on My Jewish Learning.

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