DoctorIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Nearly 12,000 Israelis have signed forms requesting permission to put an end to their own lives, a dramatic increase over just 740 who did so in 2013.

Currently, euthanasia, also dubbed “mercy killings,” in which a doctor or other agent puts an end to the life of a patient – usually an elderly person with a terminal disease that is causing them great suffering – are illegal in Israel. If and when those killings become legal, said the Lilach organization, which is advocating for a mercy killing law, the individuals who filed the requests will be “first in line” for mercy killings.

In 2005, the Knesset passed a law that allowed doctors to “pull the plug” on terminally ill patients by providing them with a drug that will kill them. The patient must administer the drug himself. However, the law is rarely invoked, because the patients who would be eligible are often not conscious or in a state of mind in which they can legally make the request, which can only be made immediately before the killing would take place.

Jewish law forbids mercy killing, and religious parties opposed the 2005 law. Lilach is seeking a new law that would allow individuals to decide in advance, when their faculties are intact, that they be put to death under specific circumstances.

According to Bina Dibon, head of Lilach, “it is very clear that there is a lot more awareness today on the matter of dying with dignity. A new law would restore the autonomy and dignity of terminally ill people, giving them control over their own bodies. We hope the Knesset will pass such a law.”