Silence About Schiavo

Why aren’t people taking to the streets in support of Terri Schiavo? This case will prove to be the Roe v. Wade of the disabled and terminally ill. Tens of thousands of lives in the future hang in the balance, not just that of one tragic woman whose parents are not willing to relinquish her life to the capriciousness of activist judges. This case will effectively not extend a “right to die,” but firm up the right for people other than the patient to decide when a life is worthwhile preserving or not.

Terry Schiavo left no written instructions regarding treatment in extremis. While Western systems of law generally provide layers of protection before taking a life (think of the mandatory appeals in capital punishment cases), Schiavo’s right to life is forfeited to the judgment call of individual judges, who have decided what she would have really wanted. They have ruled in favor of a husband who stands to gain financially by her death, and who admits he wishes to be free to remarry. (Or as Mark Steyn put it, wants to be rid of her because she is no longer convenient.) All this despite opposing claims by a loving family, and a tradition of religious belief she herself subscribed to which would mandate continuing to give her food and water. (Schiavo, it should be remembered, breathes on her own, without the aid of a respirator.) Can the competing narrative of Terri’s parents be summarily dismissed? Shouldn’t a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard prevail, similar to the one we use before we convict an accused party?

It is not hard to figure out what the judges are thinking. Terri has no “quality of life.” She will never regain higher cortical function. Her life, therefore, has already been extinguished and has no real legal gravitas.

Every religious community that sees life as G-d given should be up in arms. The Christian Right in particular should be rallying the troops. The media is putting all the blame upon them for Congressional interference; they should at least take the moral credit for taking a strong stand. They should be organizing shows of support for Schaivo’s parents in every major city, with traditional Jews, Catholics, and Moslems at their side. The evangelicals I know are deeply principled, and have extraordinary sensitivity to the inherent, G-d given sanctity of human life. For the most part, their leadership has not called for the troops to rally around the flag of preserving the specialness of human life. (I personally reached out to evangelical leadership, and have received no response as of this writing.) Moreover, 46% of evangelicals in a recent poll sided with the judges! This could only happen if their churches did not think enough of the issue to educate their own laity. To me, this is mind-boggling. (Agudah called it correctly, and issued a public appeal to Michael Schaivo to spare his wife’s life. For this, they have been accused of distorting “traditional Jewish teaching” by the world’s foremost authority on Jewish Law — the Jerusalem Post.)

Ronald Reagan said it best. Peggy Noonan cites him in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In the early days of the abortion debate, when people would argue that the fetus may not really be a person, he’d say, “Well, if you come across a paper bag in the gutter and it seems something’s in it and you don’t know if it’s alive, you don’t kick it, do you?” Can anyone fully claim to know what is in the human and loved-by-family bag called Terri Schaivo?

What are the chance that a year from now we won’t see articles in the Jewish Observer and Jewish Action about “Surviving New Realities for the Terminally and Not So Terminally Ill?” I would think that we ought to be doing more while we still have a chance — together with other faith communities — to influence the way Americans think before those new realities overwhelm us all.

You may also like...

34 Responses

  1. Chaim says:

    Excellent Post! Right on the money! Seeing this case brings tears to my eyes, there is something majorly wrong with our judicial system if this woman’s life is valued so cheap.

  2. Hanan says:

    I was wondering the same thing.Why ISEN’T there any massive rallies out there. I presume its because most people are just waiting for someone to lead the way and they shall follow. I have been saddened by this case from the beginning. I don’t think we should be talking of the presumed reasons behind the husband’s decision. I don’t think its relevant to what the main issue here is, which is the sanctity of life. If any of the guesses we make into why the husband decided to end her life prove false, we will be made to look like fools and it ruin all the other arguments we try to make for keeping Terri alive.

    You say this: “They should be organizing shows of support”… or “their leadership has not called for the troops”… What about us. Why diden’t we do anything. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Is it because we don’t see it as helping anything. Or maybe its because we are so used to thinking in the way of “somone should do something” instead of “what can I do”.

    This case is just another marble you can add to the jar of Conservative vs. Liberal idealogies.It bothers me that the Left can create massive protests for their agendas and beliefs but the other side falls flat short of that. I’ve realized since the whole Schaivo thing came up and through me talking to friends and colleagues regarding this case is that the difference between the Left and Right is that the Left worships the law. Right or wrong, if the judge said so than thats what is done. The Right worships life. The Right just cant seem to get their message across like the Left can, or they don’t try hard enough to.

  3. Observant Observer says:

    Slate has just posted a clear-eyed commentary on the Schiavo affair. The most salient point – one that gets lost in all of the debate and emotion – is that Schiavo needs a feeding tube, but does not need any medical care to remain alive. Characterizing feeding as an “extraordinary measure” is truly extraordinary.

    At the same time, I think that Rabbi Adlerstein’s plea — “Why aren�t people taking to the streets in support of Terri Schiavo? This case will prove to be the Roe v. Wade of the disabled and terminally ill. Tens of thousands of lives in the future hang in the balance, not just that of one tragic woman whose parents are not willing to relinquish her life to the capriciousness of activist judges. This case will effectively not extend a �right to die,� but firm up the right for people other than the patient to decide when a life is worthwhile preserving or not.” – misses the point. Most states have laws that permit what is happening in Sciavo’s case to occur. Some states apparently permit a decision to terminate care to be made by hospitals over the express wishes of the family. It is those laws, and not their application in the Schiavo case, that matters. When Rabbi Adlerstein writes that “we ought to be doing more while we still have a chance � together with other faith communities � to influence the way Americans think before those new realities overwhelm us” he should be thinking about legislation that might make clear that feeding is not “extraordinary. That would be far more productive than a call to “take to the streets.”

  4. Chrysostomos says:

    A living will in place by Terri would have taken care of this issue in the first place!
    That was my post for today in my blog! Folks, do you and your family a favor, get your
    estate planning in order. Get a living will and you won’t make your loved ones or govt.
    have to make these decisions for you. Do it now!

  5. David Brand says:


    As someone who has personally witnessed people graduating from g-tube feedings to regular feedings, I know full well how important this is. In fact, as others have said, there is very little understanding out there of what “herioc measures” are versus normative ways of facilitating nutrition. The fact that Terri Schiavo will, barring any further intervention, suffer a fate worse than killers, mass-murderers or terrorists in our custody is simply a travesty. However, while I agree with the the general idea expressed in your post, it is important to note that at least one major organization has put out a statement in support of preserving the sanctity of life. Agudath Israel recently did a press release. It was famous enough to be quoted on a national radio show a couple of nights ago. It might not be the equivalent of “taking to the streets” but it does make the Orthodox Jewish opinion quite clear to the public.

  6. Zev says:

    This is not a question of “right to die,” but of “right to kill.” The courts are permitting outright murder. This should be a lesson on the importance of packing the judiciary with conservative judges.

  7. There already was such an article in the Jewish Observer a few months ago. It described several cases in which Orthodox patients had DNR orders entered on their charts without their consent or authorization and against the unanimous wishes of their families. In some cases, Agudath Israel went to court against the hospital to have the DNR order removed. Several families were pressured to remove various forms of life-sustaining treatment, on the argument that the patient was a “vegetable.” Some of these so-called vegetables walked out of the hospital on their own, in one case only four days after being designated a “vegetable.”

    About a year ago, I went to a hospital for a simple outpatient surgical procedure (removal of a ganglion cyst from my wrist). When I checked in, I was asked to sign a DNR order. Correction: I was not exactly asked. I was given a stack of papers and told to sign all of them. One of them was a DNR order. I am the pedantic type, who doesn’t like to sign anything without reading it. So, much to the admitting clerk’s annoyance, I kept her waiting while I flipped through all the documents and read the ones I didn’t recognize. When I got to the DNR order, I said I didn’t want to sign it. She said I had to sign everything. I asked if I had to have a DNR order to get the surgery. She said no — but that I had to sign the form anyway. So, I crossed out all the paragraphs authorizing them the withhold treatment and so on, wrote “SAVE ME AT ALL COSTS” in capital letters, and signed under that sentence rather than on the signature line.

    However, I don’t really believe that’s much protection. Given that they get “everybody” to sign these things, what are the chances that, if a situation had come up, they would bother to check the file for my form to make sure I’d signed it, discover I didn’t want a DNR, and decide to abide by my wishes � all in the four minutes it takes for brain damage to set in? I doubt it � everyone in a hospital is busy, and they don’t have time to even check to see if you have a special request. So, they treat you like you have a DNR, even if you explicitly asked for the opposite.

    “Medical Ethics” or “bioethics” masquarades as a professional or academic specialty, but it’s really a value system unto itself. Its values are opposed not only to Judaism and Torah values, but (as far as I know) to the values of most other “traditional” religions as well. It has its own definition of “quality of life,” and it gives that type of “quality” precedence over life itself. In some circumstances it gives economics considerations precedence over life itself. They advocate killing not only people like Terri Schiavo, but newborn babies with hemophilia and adults with Alzheimer’s. One former governor of Colorado wrote a book suggesting (among other things) banning all medical care for people over a certain age.

    I have more comments on this topic here and here.

  8. Adam Steiner says:

    In response to Observant Observer:

    Laws generally don’t arouse the same emotion and fervor as an actual case. You can’t point to a law the same way you can point to a person. In addition to a public discussion on the issue the larger goal may be overturning laws which allow hospitals to terminate care, but even if you think so, you won’t get there by focusing on the laws. You need a banner. Terri Schiavo’s case has mobilized the public (on either side) and by rallying around *her* you can then begin working on the larger question.

  9. Adam Steiner says:

    In response to Zev:

    Not that it is indicative of liberalism/conservatism but the 3 judge panel from the 11th circuit that initially heard the case was made up of 2 Clinton appointees and 1 Bush (41) appointee. The decision was 2-1. The dissenter was a Clinton appointee.

    Second, the state circuit judge that has been overseeing the case is a conservative republican (who was re-elected while deciding this case and has, I believe, 4 years to serve on his term)

    Third, it would appear that the “strict” reading being given by the courts of the 11th circuit and Middle District of Florida would be more of a “conservative”/”constructionalist” argument.

    Just to show that its not just an issue of liberal/conservative or activist/constructionalist judges.

  10. Zev says:

    But the elevating of “rights” over life is very much a liberal symptom.

  11. Thank you for the thoughtful article and follow up comments acknowledging the right of patients to basic care and respect as persons. I am not in the medical profession, but in the simple act of engaging bikur cholim I have observed how vulnerable hospital patients can be. I still cannot believe how bizarre, negligent and criminal the actions in the Schiavo matter are, yet so many seem to look the other way. To say the least, there is a definite need for more aggressive advocacy on behalf of patients.

  12. dilbert says:

    And now, a comment from the other side. The courts have established that food/water is a medical intervention, and can be refused by a competent person. They also have established a hierarchy of people who are the surrogate decision makers when a person is not competent. The first person on the list is the spouse. And unless there is a significant doubt about the spouse having the interests of the patient at heart, the spouse is the surrogate decision maker, and can make the same decisions that a person could, including refusing food/water. There is no financial incentive for Michael Shiavo, the money from the malpractice suit either ran out or is about to, eaten up by medical bills. If he wanted to be rid of her, he could have divorced her long ago. She was not a regular church-going person. 80% of americans would not want to be preserved in the state she is in. The legal questions are actually quite cut and dry, and it is not surprising that the judges have upheld Michael Shiavo’s case. This is the state of American medical/legal ethics. It is supported by most of the people in the county.
    Halachically, of course the situation is different. Obviously we believe that food/water cannot be withdrawn, our definition of quality of life is different(at least when viewed from the orthodox persepective), and we value even short periods of life(chayei sha’a).

    So, when you view this issue as the natural outcome of the combination of patient autonomy and freedom of choice(to refuse medical care, with food/water defined as medical care), and the usual list of surrogate decision making, removing the tube is a valid legal choice. However, when viewed as ending the life of a woman in a persistant coma(yes, from the most valid medical evidence she is in a persistant vegetative state), especially when people are raising questions if she indeed is in a coma, now it becomes an issue of value of life and ending the life of a disabled person. If one is not happy with how the law works, then one should work to change the law. Having massive interventions by governors, congress and presidents in one person’s case, just because they dont like the results of the laws of the country is a perversion of justice.

  13. Yaakov Rosenblatt says:

    The time for action is now. But what can we, as a charedi community so far from Tampa, do politically besides call Govorner Jebb Bush (whose line is busy) our Congresspeople (who have already done all they can) and wring our hands?

  14. Sholom Simon says:

    You’re complaining against the wrong people! This is not a case of activist judges. I strongly disagree with your comment that: “It is not hard to figure out what the judges are thinking. Terri has no �quality of life.� She will never regain higher cortical function. Her life, therefore, has already been extinguished and has no real legal gravitas.”

    No, this is a case where the judges are simply interpreting Florda law. That’s why 15 courts and over 30 judges (or perhaps it was 30 court cases and 15 judges) have all ruled the same way.

    Your ire should be directed at the Florida legislature. And it should be noted that the Flordai Senate, just yesterday, rejected a change in the law.

    In fact, it’s even worse in Texas. There, a medical panel can remove life support from a patient, even if it is against the wishes of *all* tha parties. In fact, a poor 6 month old was just disconnected this week to little fanfare, against the wishes of his parents. (Where was everybody on that one?. Why was there no ad hoc federal legislation to save the life of young Sun Hudson? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to, and look up “Sun Hudson”, the name of the six month old).

    With all due respect, R Adlerstein, direct your ire at the appropriate parties, here.

  15. Zev says:

    Dilbert, your comments are off the wall. You’re saying that since the courts have decided that murdering a person through starvation is okay, any intervention is a perversion of justice. In my opinion, it’s this unjust, inhumane law, and your support of it, that is a perversion – a perversion of humanity, that is.

    (And besides, the intervention of Congress is also law, and no less legitimate than the anti-democratic “legislation” imposed upon us at the whim of amoral judges.)

  16. Hanan says:

    Perhaps Sholom Simon is right. The media has been bombarding all of us with Schaivo’s story for a long time now and I have to admit that I have fallen victim to getting emotional on what the media “tells” me to get emotional over. If they make a big hoopla about a situation, so will I, if they don’t, then I guess I won’t either. Its wrong, but I guess only normal. But it really puts things into perspective more.

  17. Sholom Simon says:


    Please stop attacking the judges (the intital judge, btw, is a conservative republican Southern Baptist). He is only applying the law as written. The law is as plain as day in this case. The “leglislation imposed on us” (as you write), was leglislated by the (GOP controlled) Florida Senate. And, indeed, they had a chance to change the law yesterday — and didn’t. Don’t blame this on the judges.

    If you really want to understand the legal issues, check out this page.

  18. dilbert says:

    Zev- What would your opinion be if Ms. Schiavo had a living will that stated that she didn’t want to live in the state that she presently is in? Would you agree to removing food/water in that situation? How about a person with a spinal cord injury who can’t breathe, and requests to be removed from a breathing machine? The courts have held that not honoring that request is against the law. Do you want to make Halacha the law in the united states?

    Medical ethics controversies need to be decided by the Aguda, the RCA, or the Beit Din of America? Do you want to change the law that allows people to decide their own health care? that they can refuse food and water? I agree 100% that removing food/water from a person is contrary to Halacha. However, does Halacha mandate that you protest not inserting a feeding tube into a woman that is comatose, who by legally recognized accounts would not have wanted to be preserved in that situation? Of course you can make it look like murder if you phrase it in terms of withholding food/water from a person. But if you think of it in terms of not aggressively treating someone, it starts to look less and less like murder. Maybe to make you happy they should put a tray of food at her bedside, that way she could eat if she wanted to.(I know this appears to be an insensitive remark, but it is only intended to show that the issue is a lot more complex than simple statements like “murdering a person through starvation is ok”)

  19. Slowe says:

    Terri Schiavo’s husband has a clear conflict of interest that should disqualify him from being Terri’s guardian. If money is an issue, then perhaps he could be compensated in some other way. Is having higher brain functions a requirement to be allowed to remain among the living? Terri does not require a ventilator, she is apparently otherwise healthy and not suffering. Her parents derive some small pleasure knowing that she is still alive, and warm. They can visit her, touch her and interact in some small way with her. This has got to be more rewarding than visiting a grave, wondering about a loved one’s state of decomposition, knowing that you will never see them again

  20. Seth Gordon says:

    The law that applies in Schiavo’s case may need to be revised, as other people on this thread have opined. But since the judge in the case has been doing nothing more than his job as a finder of fact and interpreter of the law, a complaint about “activist judges” is 180 degrees off the mark. What we have, instead, is activist legislatures, unwilling to change the general law for how patients are treated, but eager to pass private bills narrowly tailored to override a court’s finding in this particular case.

    Even if the court erred in the Schiavo case, to have the legislatures involved in this way sets a very bad precedent. What other emotionally charged family controversies will end up dissected, case by case, on the floor of the United States Senate? If, God forbid, I die and one of my relatives is upset at how my will is interpreted, will Congress step in to substitute its judgement for the decision of the probate judge? Where will this end?

  21. MP says:

    Count me in with the comments of dibert and Sholom Simon. America doesn’t operate in accordance with Halacha, not should we expect it to…nor should we ask it to. The lady at the center of this case is not a Torah-true Jew, nor is her husband, and neither is bound by Halacha any more than the American legal code and courts are bound by it.

    Count me in as empathetic to Rabbi Adlerstein’s overall point. There is a widening gap in America between its civil law & societal mores and the ideals of its founding fathers, never mind of sheva mitzvos b’nai Noach, and I agree that silence in the face of specific situations which exemplify such a gap is akin to agreement with the tenor of those situations.

    Last, count me in as seconding comment#4. Get your affairs in as much order as possible — the best of arrangements may still not be sufficient, but you do have to try your best. If you’re a Torah-true Jew and you haven’t appointed a health-care representative to fight on your behalf if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself in a medical emergency, please see Ira Kasdan’s Jewish Law – Halachic Forms page. Thanks…and a Gut Purim to all!

  22. In Comment #15 above, Sholom Simon writes:

    You’re complaining against the wrong people! This is not a case of
    activist judges. … No, this is a case where the judges are simply
    interpreting Florda law.

    See this page for a list of Florida statutes which have been ignored or violated by the Florida judges. Some of them are quite obvious, e.g., Title XLIII, 744.3215(1)(a) required a guardianship of an incapacitiated person to be reviewed annually, and for the guardian to file an annual report and plan of action. Michael Schiavo has not filed such reports for many years, the courts have not asked him to, and the last time he did submit such a report, under “plan of action” he wrote “NONE.”

    In addition, 744.3215(1)(i) requires that an incapacitated person receive rehabilitation services — which were denied starting 6 years before Michael first sought an order to remove feeding and hydration.

    Futhermore, if they really took the Florida statutes seriously, Michael would be prosecuted for violating Title XLVI, 798.01, which declares that, “Whoever lives in an open state of adultery shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.” Such a finding or conviction would no doubt impugn Michael’s claim to have his legal wife’s best interests at heart and thus his right to be her legal guardian. The fact that he has publicly announced his intent to marry another women, with whom he is already living and has two children, should be enough to show that he has interests contrary to hers, which has consequences under Florida statutes that have never been enforced.

    Sholom is quite right, of course, that the case of Sun Hudson should have gotten more attention. I would certainly have supported federal intervention in that case as well. However, the fact that one person has already been murdered under color of law does not mean we should not exert efforts to protect another person from being so murdered as well.

    For more information on Sun Hudson, a 6-month-old baby who was disconnected from a respirator over the objections of his parents and at the behest of a hospital ethics board, see the story in the Houston Chronicle, and if you wish, my comments and those of Clayton Cramer.

    For those of you such as “dilbert” and “MP” who think that the relevant issue is that halacha is not American law, be aware that there is certainly nothing to stop the precedents in these cases from being applied to Jews, including Orthodox Jews. Living wills and advanced directives are not sufficient in the face of hospital “ethics” committees with values diametrically opposed to ours. Sun Hudson was 6-month-old who obviously never had a chance to write an advanced directive — and his parents’ wishes were over-ridden by the hospital “ethics” committee. His parents didn’t have the money to raise a strenuous legal challenge or a publicity challenge like the Schindlers did, so he died without fanfare. I doubt Tom DeLay ever heard of Sun Hudson until it was too late, even though it happened in DeLay’s home city. I certainly never heard of him until after he died, and I follow these issues as closely as I can.

    We have a situation in which the medical profession and the “bioethics” “profession” are seeking to impose their values on everyone else through the courts, and they are largely succeeding. See, for example, the article in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the Groningen Protocol for euthanizing newborns and claiming that similar practices are already in place in the United States. The New York Times recently ran a puff piece on the developer of the Groningen Protocol, and the Los Angeles Times ran an article by “bioethicist” Peter Singer (who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors) proclaiming that passive infanticide is widely accepted in the U.S. and defending the expansion of the practice to include active infanticide even of non-terminal newborns who could live a productive live. See also this article by Wesley J. Smith, and my comments.

  23. Zev says:

    Different River is really on target, and I’d recommend a visit to his website for a more comprehensive look at the perversion that is being imposed upon us in the name of “law”. Example: The arrest of a ten-year-old boy for the “crime” of bringing water to Terri Schiavo. This is a descent to the level of S’dom. It amazes me that Orthodox Jews can actually defend what’s being done here.

  24. Joe Schick says:

    Dilbert: “Of course you can make it look like murder if you phrase it in terms of withholding food/water from a person. But if you think of it in terms of not aggressively treating someone, it starts to look less and less like murder.”

    The law is clear that if you withhold food and water from a patient – even one in a vegetative state – who has not consented, it is indeed murder. If you, Dilbert, as a doctor, would unilaterally take out someone’s in Terri Schiavo’s condition, you’d be charged with 1st degree murder.

    We can agree on the halacha, and that a patient has the right to request that food and water be withheld. The issue here is whether Schiavo clearly indicated that she would not want to remain alive in this condition. I think this is an unresolved factual question, and therefore the feeding tube should not have been removed.

  25. dilbert says:

    Mr. Schick — The New York Times on Saturday(and the USA today previously) both document how the relationship between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers deteriorated after he refused to share the $300,000 loss of consortium award with them. The courts have settled the issue of what Terry wanted to their satisfaction. The Times also reports that all but two of the neurologists who examined Ms. Schiavo say that she is in a persistant vegetative state. Of the two who disagree, one only looked at videotape and did not examine her, the other claims to have all sorts of cures for people in pvs(obviously not cures that are recognized by standard medical science). If you want to disagree with the court’s finding of what Ms. Schiavo wanted, certainly that is a your right, but the judges have spend a lot of time on the topic. Certainly they could be wrong, but there isn’t any proof that they are. Of course, in any human judgement, there is room for error.

    zev — I think there is much more of a chance that your Christian right friends that you are hooking up with are going to impose their beliefs on us and our children, than any chance that misguided “liberals” are going to impose thier views of quality of life on us without our permission. It depends on which way you want to err in your society. You can err on the side of too much freedom, or too much secularism, and wind up like the French, banning kippot and religious observance in school, or you can err on too much religion and values being imposed(and despite what you might want or think you can achieve, they are not going to be Jewish values, they are going to be Christian values) and wind up with more of a theocratic state, with prayers to Jesus and more outward trappings of religion, not to mention the more extreme versions of christian states(anyone remember the inquisition?). I would prefer to err, within reason on the side of more freedom, and less christianity.

  26. Joe Schick says:

    Dilbert: My argument is not with the doctors who have concluded that she is in a persistent vegetative state, but with the courts (and FL law), who, you write, “have settled the issue of what Terry wanted to their satisfaction.” I’ve read much of the material, and the reality is that there is no evidence on either side of the question. In light of the lack of evidence of the patient’s wishes, I don’t think there is a basis for removal of the feeding tube.

    As a lawyer, I have won and lost cases based on the concept of the statute of frauds, that without a writing, many agreements are not considered by courts. If the lack of a writing can apply in that situation, it certainly should apply when a patient has not expressed his or her wishes on medical matters.

  27. Zev says:

    dilbert wrote: “What would your opinion be if Ms. Schiavo had a living will that stated that she didn�t want to live in the state that she presently is in?”

    And what would be your opinion if a healthy person gave permission to another person to kill them? I believe that the killer would be guilty of murder, both morally and, I’m sure, under the law. All your talk about halachah and Christianity is a red herring; the plain fact is that this act, whether allowed by the law or the judges or whoever, is nothing short of an act of murder, and all your justifications do nothing to change this.

  28. dilbert says:

    zev- Your problem then, is not specifically with this case, but with the law in america that allows one to choose to refuse food/water. And I agree with you on that. However, I dont see you out protesting the death penalty(a non-Halachic imposition of death, no witnesses, no warning, etc.) I dont see you out protesting the J’s Witnesses who are dying when they refuse a blood transfusion. I dont see you out protesting the not-yet brain dead but deeply comatose people who are removed from respirators probably every day in this country. Where is your outrage over all these “murders”? Have you written to your congressman and outlined for him the Halachic criteria of death so he can impose it? And the Halachic criteria for death inflicted by the courts? Why not? The reason is that we, as Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz wrote, have an obligation to have the sheva mitzvot b’nai Noach respected by the non-Jews. However, as he pointed out when he opposed the religious parties leaving the Israeli government over abortion laws, we have to have a goal in mind, not a specific case. And we shouldn’t sacrifice the goals for a specific case. I hope to post more in depth on this topic later this week.

  29. Zev says:

    Dilbert, why do you keep bringing in halachah? I have not. In my view, what is being done to Terri Schiavo is murder without reference to halachah. Any person with the least moral sense understands this. What is your argument? That the law allows it? Then the law is an ass, and worse.

    I’m not sure what you want with the death penalty. The halachic requirements of hasra’ah and eidim do not apply to the arkaos of b’nei noach, so what’s your point? The other examples you cite, I’m certainly against them too. I am not required to list my opinions on all related matters before being permitted to opine on this one.

  30. dilbert says:

    zev- “what is being done to Terry Schiavo is murder.” The definition of murder is the unlawful taking of life. What is the law here? You have opined that you are not using halacha, you are also not using american law. You are using “any person with the least moral sense.” Ultimately, you are using zev’s law. According to zev’s law, this is murder. However, it is not murder according to American law. And, according to the morals of more than 70% of Americans, it is not murder.

    As far as the other examples, I am noting that the definition of what is moral and what isn’t moral is not always clear cut. And, if you are consistant in your beliefs, your opinion on this case will/should have implications for what you would opine in other cases. Thinking about the whole issue, and not just this one case, may give you more of a perspective.

  31. Zev says:


    What you call Zev’s morality is what twenty years ago would have been everyone’s morality, irregardless of halachah. There was a time when every decent person understood that starving a living person to death is murder. You’re probably right when you say that public opinion has changed. But morality is not a matter of public opinion. 70% of Americans (if this statistic is correct, which I doubt) cannot change an act of murder into a righteous act, the best efforts of professional “bio-ethicists” notwithstanding.

  32. Zev says:

    Those who claim that Terri Schiavo’s death is allowed by law, that she is in a vegetative state, that Judge Greer acted responsibly, should see this Nat Hentoff’s scathing indictment of what amounts to judicial and media malpractice. The article is here:,hentoff,62489,6.html

  1. March 23, 2005

    Jews Fasting for Terri
    The one good thing — perhaps the only good thing — about this is that it has brought people from all sorts of historically opposed groups, particularly religions. The Schindlers (Terri’s family) are Roman Catholics, and the Catholic Church has spok…

  2. March 29, 2005

    Second, third and fourth thoughts
    If there is a central issue in the Terry Schiavo case it is this comment quoted by Kesher Talk:It all hinges on whether the feeding tube is simply nutrition and water, or whether it should be regarded as medicineMany of…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This