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October 24, 1975 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1975-10-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

14 October 24, 1975

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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Jersey Case Stirs Religious Debate
Over Jewish Laws and Euthanasia

NEW YORK (JTA) —
Three rabbinical experts,
have expressed separate
conflicting opinions on
whether Jewish law would

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sanction the plea of the par-
ents of a 21-year-old New
Jersey woman foi removal
of a respirator which has
sustained her life processes
for more than five months.
Karen Ann Quinlan has
suffered irreversible brain
damage, according to doc-
tors at St. Glare's Hospital
in Denville, N.J., where she
is in a coma.
The three are Rabbi Nor-
man Lamm, spiritual leader
of the Jewish Center in
Manhattan and professor of
Jewish philosophy at Yesh-
iva University; Rabbi Sey-
mour Siegel, chairman of
the committee on Jewish
Law and standards.of the
Rabbinical Assembly, the
association of Conservative
rabbis; and Rabbi Joseph
Perman, spiritual leader of
the Free Synagogue of
Westchester in Mount Ver-
non, and chairman of the
subcommittee on bio-ethics
of the Central Conference of
American Rabbis, the asso-
ciation of Reform rabbis.

Rabbi Lamm said that
the parents "simply are
not a party to the case
from the point of view of

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Jewish law" and that "to
bestow upon them the le-
gal right to determine the
life or death of their
daughter would be a rever-
sion to ancient Roman
times when parents had
the absolute authority
over the life and death of
their progeny."

He declared that "the gen-
eral principle of the Hala-
cha with regard to the case
itself is that we are not re-
quired to utilize heroic mea-
sures to prolong the life of
hopelessly sick patients but
we are forbidden to termi-
nate the use of such mea-
sures once they have be-
gun."
Rabbi Siegel said the
basic question is whether
the woman is to be consid-
ered dead or still alive,
though in a coma. In tradi-
tional Judaism, he said, the
criteria for determining
death have been "the cessa-
tion of respiratory functions
and the cessation of heart
beat." These criteria repre-
sented "the best scientific
knowledge of the day" and
once those functions
stopped, the person was
judged to be dead, he said.

Rabbi Siegel added that,
in the judgement of Ortho-
dox "decisors," these,cri-
teria "should not be
changed since they have
been enshrined in the tra-
ditional texts." But "in
the judgement of more lib-
eral decisors, such as
those affiliated with Con-
servative and Reform Ju-
daism, the criteria for
death should–reflect the
best scientific knowledge
of the time, not dogmatic
principles."

euthanasia. He said there
was a distinction between
action and passive euthana-
sia. Active euthanasia is ac-
tion to stop life or permit-
ting a person to die."
Removing the respirator
would be a situation of pas-
sive euthanasia, which he
said would be permitted if
medical opinion is that the
woman is dead. Since active
euthanasia is forbidden, the
respirator may not be re-
moved if the person is held
to be alive.
Rabbi Perman agreed
that traditional Jewish law
does not speak of brain
death because this was be-
yond the limits of medical
knowledge at the time it
was written. In any event,
he added, "we do not need to
go beyond the law; we need
to get behind it and try to
understand the ethical sen-
sitivity and human compas-
sion that has determined all
Jewish bio-ethical deci-
sions. ,'

Rabbi Perman said it
was his understanding
that there was no present
hope for a cure for Miss
Quinlan nor any possibil-'
ity of returning her to a
normal relatively healthy
life.

The question, he said, was
"whether artificially to
prolong her condition or not
to prolong it. We ought not
to do it."
He said it could not be
"ethically justifiable to ex-
tend a vegetable state for
weeks, let alone months"
and that no patient "should
have to suffer such indign-
ity, regardless of state of
consciousness."
Rabbi Perman also con-
At the present time, he tended that "no parents,
said, "there is near consen- whether natural or adop-
sus in the scientific commu- tive, should ever have to beg
nity that 'brain death' does that their child's life be
indeed indicate the cessa- taken. To my mind, there is
tion of human life" and that no possible good to outweigh
therefore, the "basis for de- the anguish of these cir-
cision in this vital area has cumstances." Quoting Ec-
been established."
clesiastes that "there is a
On the assumption that time to live and a time to
Miss Quinlan is not-dead by die." Rabbi Perman de-
current medical standards, clared "there is also a time
the next question, Rabbi_ to let live and, in this case,
Siegel said, is the issue of to let die."

Dulzin Asks Non-Interference
in Political Battle for Position

JERUSALEM (JTA) —
Leon Dulzin, acting chair-
man of the Jewish Agency
and World Zionist Organi-
zation Executives, asked
Premier Yitzhak Rabin not
to interfere in the elections
for the chairmanship which
Dulzin is contesting with
Haifa Mayor Yosef Almogi,
the Labor Party's candi-
date.
Dulzin, who is - a- leader of
Likud, reminded Rabin that
he was Premier of all Israel
and not just of the Labor
Party.
Dulzin expressed confid-
ence that he would win the
election but conceded that
the contest would be decided
by a slender margin and
there was no way to predict
how it would go. He said Ra-

bin was risking his prestige
by supporting one candidate
over another.

Dulzin said he did not
object to the Labor Party
nominating its own candi-
date but did object 'to that
party's claim in effect that
the WZO-Jewish Agency
chairmanship "belonged"
to it. The two previous
chairmen, the late Pinhas
Sapir and the late Louis
Pincus, were both mem-
bers of the Labor Party.

The Zionist Organization
of America's Zionist Infor-
mation News Service (ZINS)
reported that Israel's three
independent daily newspa-
pers have endorsed Dulzin.
The papers are Haaretz,_
Yediot Ahronot and Maariv.

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