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Enigma Of Life:
Dilemmas And Wonders
In Medical Research
GEOFF RIKLIN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
Above: Dr. Fred Rosner speaks to a gathering
of observant Jewish medical professionals.
Left: Dr. Fred Rosner: Every patient has a
right to know his diagnosis.
Experts gather in Troy to discuss issues
of Jewish medical ethics.
PHYLLIS ANN MEER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
man approached a child on
an archery field. He was
amazed to see that every ar-
row had hit the bull's-eye.
"How did you do it, my child?"
asked the man.
"It was easy," answered the child.
"First I shot the arrows. Then, I
drew the bull's-eye," he said.
"Today," said Rabbi Avraham Ja-
cobovitz, • director of Machon
L'Torah in Oak Park, "people cre-
ate a philosophy of convenience.
They do whatever they want so of-
ten that it becomes acceptable to
He cited a case in California in
which a man was charged for ex-
hibiting pornography in a maga-
zine. The attorney delayed the case
for eight years. By the time the case
went to trial, the evidence was no
longer considered pornography, and
the case was dismissed.
"The example illustrates that it
is very difficult to determine moral-
ity without parameters. The result
is chaos," Rabbi Jacobovitz said.
Rabbi Jacobovitz addressed over
100 physicians, health-care work-
ers, spouses and guests at the first
Jewish medical ethics conference
to be held in the Midwest. The ob-
jective was to clarify "the parame-
ters of medical ethics from the
Divine Source, the Torah," said
Rabbi Jacobovitz. "Judaism comes
with its own owners manual for
right and wrong. It has proven to
be solid, unchanging and logical
The conference, held March 1 to
3 at the DoubleTree Guest Suites
in Troy, was sponsored by Machon
L'Torah and Henry Ford Hospital
and co-sponsored by the Hospice of
The idea for the conference was
developed during one of Rabbi Ja-
cobovitz's study sessions at Ford
Hospital. Dr. Mark Blumenkehl, a
gastroenterologist, expressed the
need to have a conference in the
area on Jewish medical ethics
where physicians could sit down
and discuss issues vital to their
practice. The scope of the confer-
ence encompassed issues of con-
ception and infertility, rationing
health care, abortion in Jewish law,
near-death experiences, euthana-
sia, organ transplant, the meaning
of life and Jewish tradition.
Faculty at the conference in-
cluded Dr. Richard Grazi, director
of the division of reproductive en-
docrinology and infertility at Mai-
monides Medical Center in
Brooklyn, N.Y.; Rabbi Shmuel
Irons, dean of the Kollel Institute
of Greater Detroit; Dr. Fred Ros-
ENIGMA page 60
s part of Machon L'Torah's conference
on Jewish medical ethics, Rabbi Shra-
ga Rothbart of the Kollel Institute of
Greater Detroit and a senior lecturer
for Ohr Somayach, addressed the issue of an-
imal experimentation in medical research,
Rabbi Rothbart said the Torah gives rights
to animals as well as to humans, and the fact
that both gro-ups have rights creates the dilem-
ma of conflicting needs. The power human be-
ings have over animals creates the potential
for abuse, and an abusive act damages our
quest for spiritual growth.
Rabbi Rothbart states that the Torah, specif-
ically Genesis, gives an enormous power over
animals. But, God did not give Adam the right
to kill animals; people did not have the right
until God granted it to Noah, who gained it
through his sacrifice and achievement.
The right to kill animals is limited, Rabbi
Rothbart said An animal must be killed to
minimize suffering. Furthermore, animals
must rest on the Sabbath and saddles must
be removed from horses. Before a man can eat,
he must feed his animals.
The Torah and the Talmud recognize that
animals have some capacity for emotion. A
parent animal and its offspring -cannot both
be slaughtered on the same day. The famous
Jewish scholar, Moses Maimonides, said even
animals can feel anguish.
The Torah states that an ox and a donkey
may not plow a field together because an ox
chews its cud constantly and the donkey will
feellealous because it will think that the ox
got more food.
It is widely known that in ritual slaughter,
the act must be performed all at once and with
a very sharp, undamaged blade in order to re-
Rabbi Rothbart suggested that mercy is in-
nate, but it is a weak impulse that competes
with strong, sinful temptations. Cruelty to an-
imals and cruelty to people are linked. People
who enjoy harming others tend also to enjoy
The Torah and Talmud forbid the useless
destruction of a useful thing. Any act of de-
struction or any killing must have a coherent
rationale. Because animals are God's crea-
tures and have certain rights, one must have
a sensible purpose in mind before killing them.
One talmudic dilemma deals with the prac-
tice of crippling the horse of a king upon his
death in order to signify that no one may use
the horse of the ruler. Some talmudists would
say that this reason is sufficient to justify an
act; but to others, it seems like wanton cru-
elty. After all, there are many ways to com-
memorate the passing of a king.
Reviewing all these examples, Rabbi Roth-
bart concludes that medical research on ani-
mals is consistent with Jewish law as long as
the research is necessary and as long as it
avoids inflicting useless pain and suffering.
He acknowledged, however, that some Jew-
ish scholars reject this point of view, arguing
that even seemingly important medical re-
search does not justify harming God's crea-