Jewish leaders react with caution to Supreme Court’s ‘end of life’ ruling

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Jewish leaders react with caution to Supreme Court’s ‘end of life’ ruling

Landmark case raises ethical dilemma as it allows doctors and families to remove food and water from those in vegetative state without permission

Jewish representatives have reacted with caution to a Supreme Court ruling allowing doctors and families to agree to withdraw hydration and food from those in a permanent vegetative state without legal permission.

The landmark legal case raises an ethical question in the Jewish community, said the Board of Deputies’ medical adviser, who said the organisation “will look at the judges’ ruling in detail to understand its full implications for end-of-life care”.

University College London’s Emeritus Professor of Immunopathology David Katz, speaking on behalf of the Board, said there were conflicting principles to consider.

“Judaism upholds the principle of sanctity of life,” he said. “When confronted with a seriously ill patient, the default Jewish option is a presumption in favour of saving life. At the same time, Judaism is also sensitive to the very real issues of suffering.”

He added: “Jewish teaching does not support futile treatment; but does regard a failure to provide for basic needs, including hydration, as unacceptably cruel.”

Other senior physicians, however, saw that the court as right to say that when families and doctors agree, medical staff can remove feeding tubes without applying to the Court of Protection.

Professor Stuart Stanton, president of the British Society of Urogynecology and former chairman of Hadassah UK, said: “I entirely agree with the Supreme Court verdict. As long as the family and doctors agree, we should respect that.”

He said there were several factors to consider. “The first thing is respect for the patient. The second very important issue is respect for the family, who are stood around not knowing what to do, seeing their family member in that state. A third issue, though less important, is demand for beds and huge pressure on the service.”

He added: “I agree with Professor Katz that saving life is very important, but there comes a time when more than one doctor agrees that there is no hope, when the family see that, and when the patient is permanently vegetative with no brain activity.”

Stanton said the court’s ruling could foreshadow a bigger national debate. “It prompts the question of euthanasia,” he said. “You’ve got people with terminal illnesses, in pain, having to go to Switzerland, and family members who accompany them arrested on their return. It believe parliament needs to debate it.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: