Brazen New World

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7 Responses

  1. Garnel Ironheart says:

    The problem is that the modern training of medicine in the university setting is, like all other parts of the current liberal arts university setting, either coldly scientific (the clinical subjects like physiology, cardiology, etc.) or completely secular humanistic (the subjects like medical ethics, end-of-life, etc).

    As a resident, I participated in a seminar on palliative care and the subject of passive euthanasia – not treating a patient who is terminally ill but just letting him pass away – came up. The instructor asked some others what their opinions were and the usual lines like “Well, if he’s suffering so much, what is his life worth?” or “I wouldn’t feel right prolonging his pain.” When she got to me, I answered simply: “Every moment of life has infinite value. If I, through omission or comission, shorten a person’s life, how is that different from murder?”

    Naturally, I was immediately labelled “extreme”.

    It’s interesting that Rav Shafran would choose Peter Singer as his “prophet”. Prof Singer is well known in the medical community for his lack of appreciation for the sanctity of life and his strong utilitarian views. What is less well understood is that the average medical student that does not come from a defined ethical background (be it Jewish or otherwise) receives much guidance in the secular humanistic viewpoint that suffering is unacceptable and trumps the right to live. Euthanasia, passive or active, abortion, are all judged by their convenience to the person. The thought of answering to a Higher Power, that our bodies and lives might not just be ours to do with as we please is not one that is taught to them. Infringed on autonomy, you see.

  2. Barry says:

    I wonder if the good Rabbi can bring us up to date on the current medical conditions of the unnamed seemingly comatose woman, Zongwu Jin and Mr. Golubchuk. (“Alert” and “making purposeful movements” are pretty vague. Has communication been established? Has any impartial observer seen the purposeful movements? Family members have been known to see what they wish to see. Not that it happened here of course.)

  3. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    Sometimes the threat to the sanctity of life can come from from within religion, as we are seeing in the middle east.

    Even within Judaism, the overemphasis and overapplication and overteaching of the concept of “be killed and not violate certain prohibitions” (ye’hareg v’al ya’avor) can lead to the cheapening of human life. While we do have this concept, situations where it is applicable are very rare. Furthermore we are obligated to anticipate such threats, and if necessary move away from locations that will lead to ye’hareg v’al ya’avor situations. When teaching about the prohibitions relating to sexual immorality, the harm that can be caused to others should be emphasized first and formost and only afterwards the ye’hareg v’al ya’avor aspect. Judaism teches that any sexual exploitation is a form of murder.

    The other way life can be cheapened is thru “leader worship” which can negate the value of the life of non-leaders in the pusuit of creating new leaders. A famous quote from the Michtav (letters from) Eliyahu (by Rabbi EE Dessler) when taken out of context can lead to such thinking. Perhaps not every private letter written by our Torah leaders of previous generations should be published in books for wide distribution.

  4. Ori says:

    But the active removal of connected life-support systems or withholding of nourishment are another matter entirely. Halacha requires that death be clearly established, and does not permit any action that might hasten the demise of a person in extremis.

    Does this change when there is a shortage of life-support systems and the doctors have to choose between saving patient A who has been connected to life support for ten months and patient B who just arrived in the ER and seems to have a higher chance of recovery?

    If the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba was honest, they would clearly state that Canadian society can choose between higher taxes and a lower level of medical services. But that would put the current system of socialized compulsory healthcare into question. Canadians might start lobbying for the law to change to allow medical services to be sold in a market again instead of requiring everything to go through the government system.

  5. Daniel Shain says:

    I think articles like this present an overly-cynical view of secular ethics and of the medical profession. Clearly, the secular view is very different than the Torah view, but most doctors and family members are not trying to murder patients to save the government (or themselves) money. The real point of the issue is whether life in a vegetative or severely demented state is worth prolonging (both worth it to the patient and worth the cost to society). The Torah says it is, but the secular world (in general) thinks it isn’t.

    As end of life medical treatments become even more sophisticated, more invasive, and possibly more painful, the Poskim will have to continue to assess the issue of prolonging life in the face of terminal and incurable illness when these treatments increase the pain and suffering of the patient.

  6. Max says:

    Avi Shafran wrote:
    “Making things worse still is the great and increasing demand for transplantable organs. A doctor in California currently stands charged with injecting an incapacitated patient with inappropriate medications in order to harvest his organs more quickly. No one knows how often similar things happen – or will happen if society becomes accustomed to allowing doctors to decide when a life is no longer worth living.”

    This is a red herring. In the vast majority of cases, patients who have been on life support for extended amounts of time or who are seriously ill for any reason are not eligible to be organ donors.

    “Jewish religious law, or halacha, does not always insist that life be maintained; in some cases of seriously ill patients, Judaism forbids intercessions that will prolong suffering. But the active removal of connected life-support systems or withholding of nourishment are another matter entirely.”

    That’s true, hence the need for more public education about the halachic acceptability of DNR orders and the like.

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