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September 02, 1988 - Image 136

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-02

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

I HEALTH I

Agudah Fears N.Y. Bill
Will Legalize Suicide

BEN GALLOB

Special to The Jewish News

N

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136

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1988

ew York — A national
Orthodox agency is
fighting a battle in the
New York state legislature to
help protect the rights of fatal-
ly stricken observant Jews.
The agency, Agudat Israel of
America, testified during the
1988 legislative session against
provisions in the "health care
agent" bill, which would have
given to a proxy of a stricken
patient the right to make
medical decisions on the pa-
tient's behalf.
The legislaature did not act
on the bill, but David Zweibel,
general counsel for Agudat
Israel, said the measure would
be reintroduced in the 1989
session.
Testifying in January before
the state Senate, Zweibel had
expressed the Orthodox agen-
cy's serious reservations about
a proposed expansion of the bill,
which would have given a sur-
rogate the authority to decide
whether a doctor should be per-
mitted to order or withhold car-
diopulmonary resuscitation
(CPR) from a patient.
In last year's session, Agudat
Israel focused on seeking
changes in two health laws, the
state's "do not resuscitate" law,
and a second concerning the
legal definition of death.
One of the changes sought in
the resuscitation law would
have limited the absolute right
of a stricken patient to decline
CPR. Agudat Israel believes
that the right to decline CPR
comes close to a right to com-
mit suicide.
The 1988 legislature rejected
Agudah's request, leaving the
patient's "absolute right" in-
tact in the "health care agent"
bill.
The legislature did agree that
the do not resuscitate law did
not adequately protect the
rights of an incapacitated per-
son in need of a surrogate.
A surrogate, under the law,
may be a relative, a person
chosen by the patient, or a close
friend familiar with the pa-
tient's religious beliefs.
In the absence of such a pro-
xy, doctors are authorized to
withhold CPR if they consider
it medically futile, or if the
court approves a do not
resuscitate on the basis of the
patient's known wishes.
The legal definition of death
in New York state, to which
Agudat Israel objects, is when
there is irreversible cessation of
the functions of the entire
brain.
Most, though not all, halachic

authorities hold that death oc-
curs when there is irreversible
cessation of breathing and car-
diac and brain activity.
The legislature approved a
change which makes the
halachic definition binding at
the request of the patient or the
proxy.
Governor Mario Cuomo sign-
ed the revised do not
resuscitate bill, but not the ex-
panded definition of death
measure. The revised do not
resuscitate bill became effective
April 1.
The New York State Health
Department then adopted
regulations, which have the
force of law, to accommodate pa-
tients with religious objections
to the state's definition of
death. The regulations make it
possible for doctors to withhold
CPR from a patient defined as
halachicly dead.
The regulation also requires
hospitals, prior to final deter-
mination of "brain death," to
make "reasonable efforts" to
notify the dying patient's next
of kin or a close friend that such
a final decision is imminent.
If the friend or relatives in-
dicate that medical reliance on
the brain death definition
would offend the patient's
religious beliefs, the hospital
could be reasonably required to
accommodate those beliefs.
Explaining its objections to
the health care agent bill,
Agudat Israel issued a state-
ment last May which declared
that the bill "could, for the first
time, extend to a patient's
designated agent the same
authority to make health care
decisions as the law accords to
the patient himself (or herself)."

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

1

1 NEWS

Tourism
Is Promoted

New York — A nationwide
effort was launched by the
National Committee on
Tourism for Israel to restore
American Jewish tourism to
the levels reached in previous
years. The National Commit-
tee functions under the aegis
of the Conference of Presi-
dents of Major American
Jewish Oranizations, in part-
nership with the Israel
Ministry of Iburism and El Al
Israel Airlines.
A pledge-card will be hand-
ed to synagogue-goers. They

will be asked to turn down a
tab on the card indicating in
which month of the new
Jewish year they will visit
Israel.

Cc,

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