A Brain-Dead Child’s Beating Heart

As a father, I can’t begin to imagine the agony of the death of one of your children, but how … Continued

As a father, I can’t begin to imagine the agony of the death of one of your children, but how much more agonizing would it be to have to determine whether a child is actually dead? When do you pull the plug? When does God pull the plug?

Those are some of the questions now faced by the Brody family. A hospital in Washington says 12-year-old Motl Brody is dead. “This child has ceased to exist by every medical definition,” Sophia Smith, one of the child’s physicians, wrote in court papers. “There is no activity in any portion of his brain, including the brain stem.”

Motl’s Orthodox Jewish parents and their advocates disagree. They say their religious beliefs do not recognize the concept of brain death, and their son is alive as long as his heart beats. “The child may not be conscious, may not be interactive, but that doesn’t mean that in the eyes of Jewish law, the value of that life is any less,” Rabbi Edward Reichman, a rabbi and doctor at Albert Einstein College, told the Post.

Motl remains in intensive care in Children’s National Medical Center while hospital officials seek a court order allowing them to disconnect the boy from machines and medications that keep his lungs working and his heart beating. A hearing in D.C. Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 10.

According to The Uniform Determination of Death Act, “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem is dead.” The law is accepted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Not by all religions.

Two years ago, a Buddhist family in Boston argued that Cho Fook Cheng, their brain-dead, 72-year-old father and grandfather, was still alive and should not be disconnected from a ventilator and medications that kept his heart beating. “Even if someone is brain-dead, there may be a level of consciousness communicated by the heart beating,” said John J. Makransky, a professor of Buddhism at Boston College, told the Boston Globe.

The family won a court order that prevented the Boston hospital from disconnecting Cheng, but the family later agreed stop the medications and allow Cheng’s heart to stop beating naturally.

Other religions accept brain death. “As long as person has total brain death, we accept that person has died,” Rev. Alfred Cioffi, S.T.D., Ph.D., of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told The Bulletin in Philadelphia.

Some states like New York allow religious exceptions for medical determination of death. The District of Columbia does not. Reichman said some Orthodox Jews base the definition of death on brain activity but others base it on a heartbeat.

In either case, Reichman said, death is defined religiously as the moment when the soul leaves the body. “Obviously, no physician or human being is capable of determining when that happens, so we have to have a medical definition,” he said.

Dylan Thomas told us to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but who should get to decide when and how the light has gone out? Shouldn’t the state make allowances for religious understandings of death?

Editor’s Note: Motl Brody’s heart stopped beating on its own early Nov. 15. He was buried Nov. 16.
Motl Brody’s uncle Yitzchak Halberstam said: “We are very grateful he was able to stay on life support until he died. We hope the case will sensitize the medical establishment to the importance of respecting any patient’s religious beliefs regarding life and death.”

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  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    As an online Pro-Life-Activist (btw, I’m constantly being mistaken for a male, right-wing fundamentalist Christian and a Republican, none of which I am; the conclusion has been made although I’ve made my case based on hard core medical science and human rights) I wish to highlight the different logic used by those who justify killing the unborn child on the one hand, when medical science defines all human life as beginning as a single celled zygote and on the other hand refuse to accept the death of a born when all brain activity has stopped and the heart and lungs are kept alive mechanically with machines.The right to life is denied to the unborn on the arbitrary definition of personhood. The philosopher, the theologian all have a go at the definition of personhood based on their own abstract ideas. Never mind human life itself is not an abstract concept, and the presence of the soul cannot be proved or disproved empirically. Besides *the soul is never killed* at any time, not in abortion, not in infanticide, not in homicide, not in suicide, not in euthanasia. The philosophically minded put a pseudo scientific spin on their definition of personhood. The hard empirical science of a living, growing zygote, which is a unique human being in continuous development, is not good enough! They say that EEG has to be measurable for a developing human to be referred to as a person, or be old enough to live outside the mother’s body. Then there is the definition of a human person only after the head has emerged from the birth canal. By that definition, a baby was unborn even if its whole body was outside its mother’s body, as long as the head was still inside the mother’s body! And it could be killed with its head still inside the mother’s body, even with its hands and legs, full of life and frantically kicking outside its mother’s body, by the monstrous procedure known as partial birth abortion. Now we have the other end of the spectrum. According to medical science when the brain dies, it dies for good. When the brain is deprived of blood supply even for a few seconds, severe damage occurs. If the brain is not responding to blood being pumped by keeping the heart artificially beating with a machine, then the chances that it will come to life with a heart that is not capable of functioning on its own, is exactly zero. Keeping the lungs and heart functioning mechanically by artificial means, with a machine, is not about sustaining real life. The heart and lungs would stop functioning if the machines are shut off. Human life begins naturally with the formation of a single celled zygote. The DNA of that single cell is a powerful brain that directs its growth. Human life ends naturally when the brain, which once existed in that little cell, is dead and the heart and lungs cannot function on their own.

  • Paganplace

    “Dylan Thomas told us to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but who should get to decide when and how the light has gone out?”When I stop raging, it’s not gonna be any kind of unclear. 🙂

  • Paganplace

    “Human life begins naturally with the formation of a single celled zygote. “Human *experience* generally is expected to involve a bit more than that, though. You could try that, maybe.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Paganplace:Human experience ends only when the brain ceases to function. At what point of *experience* does a human life have a right to its life?The right to life, by its very definition, is right to life, and it is not measured by experiences or lack of it. The right comes with life. Nothing is more alive than a zygote, which is the beginning of all human life. It is not a single cell devoid of the human being. It is a human being in the stage of a single cell. That single cell takes no more than oxygen and nutrients from its mother like any born human being takes from its environment.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Paganplace:Hard core medical science defines human life as beginning with the single celled zygote. It is not a verse from the Bible.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    It is the Old Testament that Christians share with Jews that says human beings are fearfully and wonderfully made. Read a textbook of human embryology to understand the meaning of that Bible verse taken from Psalm 139.

  • aabuakee

    What his parents say is immaterial. They are not doctors and cannot make an evenhanded decision on the matter (and I don’t fault them on this). However religion does not and should not play a role in this decision. Every religion has their own view of when life begins and ends. When a Jewish family (in this case, tomorrow it could be a protestant or Muslim) holds a hospital hostage with their own religious views, they hold every other religion’s freedom in contempt. Right now thousands of dollars and precious medical resources are being diverted away from someone more in need. Leave religion where it belongs, in the church, not the hospital.

  • ZZim

    Personally I think that if the brain-dead person requires machines and medications to keep their heart beating, then they have already died and God has already taken them home. If a non-medically-trained person can keep them alive through ordinary care (spoon-feeding, etc.), then they can be considered still alive.In other words, un-hook the machine. Send him home to his family so that they can care for him in his final days. That’s how my mother died, that’s how I hope to die. And if you turn off my machines and I don’t “live” long enough to make it home, then I wasn’t really there anyway.

  • faw_07003

    Comment on the writer, Jesusalimight, that said she read the Talmud that said heartbeat is life. But the Talmud was written long before the advent of machines to keep the heartbeating. If you believe that life continues on after we leave this earth, then the machine should be shut down, and the child taken home to die in the peace of the home.

  • DanielV

    God doesn’t pull any plugs, simply because god does not exist. One of the top requirements for activities such as pull-plugging, amongst many, many others, is existence: the thing doing the plugging must exist, and since “god” is a figment of Bronze Age morons’ imagination, it obviously follows that god never pulls any plugs (or does anything else at all, for that matter).

  • readerny

    If the argument is about when life ends, then the family should be allowed to take their son to any facility they wish where their values will be upheld. But, by law, the hospital is allowed to recognize brain death as death. I think really what the family wants is everything on their own terms: the child to remain in the hospital of their choice, under their preferred conditions, and for someone else (all of us) to pay for it. This is not about separation of church and state. There is not even the right to healthcare in this country. See recent articles (I think in the NY Times) about hospitals exporting legal immigrants to Mexico when it is no longer convenient to care for them here (one man was in a coma).

  • ravitchn

    Send for Bill Frist and George W. Bush. They are the experts here!

  • ICUPhysician

    In my experience the question is best approached on two distinct levels.IF you believe that the brain is the seat of the person, that our brain ultimately defines who and what we are, then in this sad case, this childs life is over, regardless of what his parents might so fervently wish. Our protocols for brain death have been ever-so-carefully crafted so as to leave no chance of recovery unaccounted for before we declare the brain has irreversibly ceased functioning.IF on the other hand you believe that the soul is a real entity, that it is immortal, then this child’s transition from a human form to something (someone?) more eternal than we is upon him. Mere physical death becomes somewhat irrelevant, no more than a signpost on a much grander journey.In either case, I am afraid we are attempting to hold this child prisoner upon the earth. Additionally we are expending dollars and resources in futility. The bed this child now occupies, the resources and professional attention he now commands not only should be but MUST be redirected toward patients in whom there is a chance of helping. We can no longer squander resources, that much is crystal clear.In any event, this poor child has passed beyond our relatively paltry powers of life and death. His suffering is at its end. The chains must be loosed.

  • rcubedkc

    And just who gets to pay for this religious decision.How about the synagogue these people belong to. It only makes sense, religious decision, religious expense.

  • mxbahns

    If there were no technology, these individuals would die a natural death. When a person is determined to be dead by conscientious and qualified medical personnel, then, if the “dead” individual’s family insists on continuing life support – usually at great expense – let them have it, but let them pay for it themselves.

  • mickle1

    David Waters asks a relevant question. “Shouldn’t the state allow make allowances for religious understandings of death?”I would hope he reminds religious organizations that some of us do not consider life so sacrosanct that we want it continued and those religious organizations should give respect as well as ask for it. Nearly all opposition to physician assisted suicide comes from religious organizations.Religionists would do well to practice what they preach.

  • mfw8602

    To the question: “Shouldn’t the state allow make allowances for religious understandings of death?”Um, no. My group health insurance rates say no — unless these folks are going to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars themselves to keep their brain-dead family member alive. This is called imposing your religion on the rest of society.

  • bobtich

    As a retired physician I had some few experiences on this level. the problem is the expense of care and the limited number of available slots where such care might be useful to a recovering person. The most orthodox religions seem to be the most unamenable to brain death. Laws need to be clear so that the removal of artificial means of life support can be accomplished without liability to the hospital if certain protocols are followed. those who subscribe to the tenets of two thousand year old beliefs need to be confronted with the futiity of trying to use modern life prolonging equipment to stave off inevitable death. As for me, I’ve told my family that when I stop trying to watch baseball and /or check out the women passing by, pull my plug.

  • jhbyer

    Debates over when a soul leaves a body aren’t to be resolved by determining what’s already determined. Death has been determined a zillion times.It’s the soul leaving the body that has never been determined. If that can’t be determined, there’s reality to argue. Why do we humor people, who deserve no less than our sympathy and patience?

  • jhbyer

    Oops, sorry. I meant to write, “…there’s no reality to argue.”

  • dragondancer1814

    Wabarkle (my apologies if I misspelled that; the little symbol over posters’ names makes accurate spelling difficult sometimes) I couldn’t have said it better myself! Your post summed up my feelings about the anti-choicers’ feelings to a T! Not to mention I’ve got several friends who opted for an abortion when they were faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and for the very reasons your friends opted for one. None of them regret their decision at all.And ICUPhysician, I agree with you on your post as well. Once the patient is brain dead (or in the case of Terri Schiavo, reduced to the cerebellar function with no cerebral function whatsoever), then their spirit has already departed the body. As a volunteer firefighter/EMT, I’ve run quite a few medic assist calls to the nursing homes in the community, and I’ve dealt with the “living dead” such as this poor child on many occasions. We’ve even had times where the patient has a signed DNR order, only to have their family members hide it from us, therefore forcing us to perform CPR on the person, despite the fact that such measures are against their wishes and they had signed orders saying so. Quality of life is far more important than quantity, and it’s high time people realized that and quit wasting resources on these empty bodies. Let their spirits finally be at peace already!As a Wiccan, I feel that it doesn’t matter how much time we spend in this life, it’s what we do with each life that matters. Death is not something to be feared; it is merely another part of the circle. Summerland is not a permanent afterlife; it is merely a place for rest and recharge for the spirit before rebirth into another life here. Keeping a body alive after the spirit has departed like this also violates the Rede, which states quite clearly, “And it HARM NONE, do what you will.” Keeping the body alive after the spirit has departed is not helping things at all; rather it is harming others by wasting resources on a patient that has for all intents and purposes already died. Those resources are better spent on patients who have a chance of recovery rather than on flogging a body that would be dead without technology performing its automatic functions. Again, the machines should be turned off because there’s no life to maintain here. The boy’s spirit has already departed its shell; let the body follow the course nature intended.

  • rlgrennie1

    Interesting article and comments regarding one family’s dilemma, however, your readers should understand that many in the Orthodox Jewish community interpret Talmudic laws to suit their own convenience or convictions, regardless of whether they interpret Halachic laws correctly, or not. And they are not the only faction of Jews with an opinion on the matter. For example, many Jews accept that a fetus that is not more than 40 days old and therefore has no soul, if an abortion is wanted, it cannot be denied on religious grounds. The controversy over when end of life decisions are to be made was first decided by my late father, a sitting judge in Virginia, ironically enough, right before he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. All Virginia hospital systems use a version of his opinion in such matters. For the retired medical professional, Judaiism is considerably older than “two thousand years”.

  • jhbyer

    The many forthright and intellectually honest posts on this thread are a revelation to me [no pun intended!] I hesitated to post, thinking imagination would rule and reason would be resented. Thanks, posters, for increasing my faith in humanity.

  • BlueTwo1

    People of an orthodox bent cling to belief and Tradition and dispense with evidence and reason. If God, 2000 or more years ago, apparently declared that a beating heart is the only sign of life and the absence thereof is the only evidence of death, then that is that, as far as orthodoxies go. Pay no attention to millenia of medical inquiry and scientific fact. Ignore the societal cost of keeping a corpse’s heart beating and a corpse’s lungs inflating. The person is gone. The body remains. Egyptians believed the brain was packing material, used to fill the otherwise empty space in the head. The mind was an emergent property from elsewhere. I think the government should pay to replace the flooring in my house with diamonds, because diamonds are the most wear-resistant material available. Hang the expense. My Tradition dictates that I use only the finest materials and that others should pay for it. Respect my Tradition or else.

  • alanms

    How sad and pathetic that we would invest so heavily in the continuation of a physical form that is no longer functional because that is the only condition we can accept as “life”. We impose abuse and suffering on a soul that wishes to move on because we cannot let go of the body that temporarily housed it. And this in the name of love!

  • gtrgdds

    i don’t mean to sound calloused or religiously insensitive but there is another point here besides when death should be declared in cases like this. it is astronomically expensive to maintain this kind of medical care. wouldn’t the souls of so many living children be better served if those resources were spent elsewhere?if the parents are paying they have the right to continue that care as long as they will ( to the long term detriment of their other children who will not have those resources available for education or their future medical needs.) if an insurance company is paying it is not unreasonable for the insurance company, which has obligations to both its stockholders and its other customers, to make a financial decision based on law ( remember, the expenses generated by this one case will result in denial of care to other persons who are not legally brain dead. and, to be clear, i am no fan of insurance companies – i am a physician and have spent many hours on the phone advocating for authorization of care for my patients – and myself, for that matter.) if the public is paying than the public has the right to make a decision how it wants to spend its money – on sustaining a child who is legally brain dead or on immunizing, educating, treating, diagnosing or otherwise attending to the medical needs of all the children in the community.

  • LaDottoressa

    I am a Roman Catholic. I remember very vividly the original right to die case in the 70’s was brought by the Catholic church for a monk named “Brother Francis”. The view then was that extraordinary means was not necessary to keep someone alive; unless in the short term; that support would render the individual viable.

  • jprfrog

    Algrennie1: Judaism as practiced today (such as it is) is scarcely older than Christianity. Biblical history (and that is a stretch) would put Moses at Mt. Sinai around 1200 BC. The tribes were tthen the Israelites. 10 of the 12 were destroyed (exiled, sold into slavery, etc.) by the Assyrians around 750 BC. The renaining were Judah and Benjamin(?) who in exile in Babylon (6th Century BC) began to call themselves Jews (after Judah) as they assembled what became the early books of the Old Testament (known to Jews as Scripture).They became Jews of the centralizing Temple (stressing animal sacrifice and ruled by priests) when the intellectual elites returned (5th Century) under Cyrus the Great of Persia but did not develop Rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism until after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD…about the time when the NT Gospels began to be written down. Without the Temple for a central reference, the whole of law and ritual had to be re-interpreted…a process that continues, with a logic that has taken some Jews (like Spinoza and Einstein) right out of the prescribed ritual practice.As far as the present question is concerned, my opinion and feeling is that keeping this heart beating through mechanical means when there is no brain function is an abomination. A Terry Schiavo affair for the Jews? No thanks.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky of Congregation Yeshiva of in Crown Heights, New York agreed with the Brody family’s wishes.”There are some that feel brain-dead is sufficient [to declare a person’s death],” said. “But the authoritative [Orthodox Jewish] opinion is we follow the heartbeat to declare the difference between life and death.””As long as the heart is beating, he’s alive,” he added. “It may not be the best situation, but if a person’s alive, we can’t do anything that would shorten a life for a person.”—Hospital Sues Orthodox Jews To Halt Life Support For Brain-Dead Son. By Erin Maguire, The Bulletin. 11/07/2008Comments:The Jewish laws were written at a time when there was no EEG machine to detect brain activity and no heart lung machines to keep the heart and lungs mechanically functioning by artificial means. If the heart and lungs can function without a machine there is no doubt that it should be considered a sign of life. But if it can’t, and total brain death can’t be reversed? The grief of the family is understandable. But which family would not live with the illusion of life about a family member who is dead, leave alone a much loved young child? Medical personnel have the difficult job of helping families with accepting the fact of death. It is an inevitable part of their job. Even doctors are not gods who can give life to a child who is dead, and has been proven dead by the advanced technology that is at their disposal.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky of Congregation Yeshiva of in Crown Heights, New York agreed with the Brody family’s wishes.”There are some that feel brain-dead is sufficient [to declare a person’s death],” said. “But the authoritative [Orthodox Jewish] opinion is we follow the heartbeat to declare the difference between life and death.””As long as the heart is beating, he’s alive,” he added. “It may not be the best situation, but if a person’s alive, we can’t do anything that would shorten a life for a person.”—Hospital Sues Orthodox Jews To Halt Life Support For Brain-Dead Son. By Erin Maguire, The Bulletin. 11/07/2008_____________________________________1. What about a heartbeat that is only a mechanical activity kept up by a machine?2. No religious law could have been formulated with dependence on artificial means with advanced technology that did not exist at the time. 3. What about the heartbeat of a human embryo that begins at day 21/22 after fertilization? Some schools of Jewish thought do not take that growing life into consideration and thus permit abortion until birth.The line should be drawn at what is realistically possible with or without artificial means. If it was possible for the young child to go about normal life with his heart and lungs attached to a machine, that would have been a different matter. But to be kept alive like a vegetable with no chance of ever being anything else?Death is painful. But to the deeply religious, who believe that the soul does not die, death is not the end. The boy lives on forever in another dimension.

  • fzdybel

    The equipment, medicines and care now being lavished on a vegetable are intended to be used to save the life of a living human being who can be resuscitated.Show me in the Talmud where it says “Thou shalt not unplug the heart/lung machine.” If the heart is no longer beating without assistance, then it is no longer beating, and the child is dead. You can be sure this is not the first Orthodox family to face exactly this situation. This family is out on its lonesome with its very own interpretation.

  • jkbeutler

    Woah people! Terri Schiavo was NOT brain dead! Not even close. Brain dead people lay in ICUs with ventilators and IVs. Their pupils are large and do not react to light, they show no response to painful stimuli, and it’s rather difficult to keep them alive because the brain controls so much of your vital signs. I don’t want people thinking this boy looks like Terri Schiavo. He looks like someone in a casket.

  • mike777r

    Isn’t the question really an economic issue, in the best sense?If we have a societal definition of the kind of life that we are willing to pay for… and someone is now “alive” by another definition but not by the insured definition… then it becomes a private family matter to pay the costs for supporting a loved one at their higher standard.Cruel? Why? Those dollars spent to maintain a “dead” person as if he/she was “alive” (by a more expansive definition) could be used to save many many more lives who are alive by everyone’s definition.Now admittedly, in a private insurance system the money saved may not be expended for the general good… but in a properly run universal insurance system it would work that way. This family’s argument is more sympathetic because they are probably battling an evil self interested insurance company. But if they were battling us, the people of the US, and our universal health insurance program?Your ability to command resources beyond the societal consensus is different from your right to act in idiosyncratic ways. You have a right not to wear a helmet on your bike. You should not have the right to expect other people in your insurance pool to pay for the resulting medical care costs. So also, if your definition of life is expensive beyond the consensus… pay for it yourself… we’ll use the money we save to save other people who are fully conscious and have enormous needs.

  • hartman_john

    When these absurd religious dogmas were first written, allegedly by god, there were no heart-lung machines, no breathing tubes, no ventilators, no feeding by tube, no saline injections and none of the other medical accoutrements we now have. So to suggest that someone ought to base his/her decision on when or if to “pull the plug” based on ancient text is both the height of absurdity and a true indication of how humans have barely evolved beyond that of a chimpanzee.The decision to unplug or keep plugged is one to be reached after serious consultation with known and respected medical staff, as well as serious discussion amongst family members and others with a vested interest in the brain dead person.If the patient is unable to breath and live on his/her own accord, then the religious aspect of this question seems moot. Assuming there is a god (highly doubtful) why would this god intervene one way or another? t is not a question of religious morality.

  • lepidopteryx

    This is why I have a living will. My parents, my husband, my daughter, and my lawyer all have a copy, and I have had a copy placed in my file every time I hae been admitted to a hospital. I am also an organ donor. A copy of my driver’s license with its organ donor designation on it is also in my medical records. I have informed my family that if I should be diagnosed with a terminal disease, that I do not wish to be kept “alive” in a state where I do not recognize my loved ones, must be fed through a tube because I do not have the presence of mind or physical abilty to swallow, and/or must be diapered several times daily because I either have no sphincter control or no awareness of having voided my bladder and/or bowels. I will decide when I am close enough to such a state, and will take my own life before I reach that point while I still have the ability to make and execute such decisions.

  • persiflage

    It seems clear that contemporary medical expertise must enter the discussion when reaching decisions pertaining to viable life and/or sustainable life. Specific to this essay, medicine has a significant legal role to play in the course of establishing reasonable parameters for maintaining artificial life support. While no one would pretend to exhaust complex ethical questions in a few sentences – in the absence of a Living Will or full power of attorney, it’s incumbant on parents, legal guardians, spouses and medical authorities to come together at some point when life support has run it’s course as a reasonable medical intervention. In the end, a court may have to make this legal decision by proxy. Recalling the similar high profile Mary Joe Kopeckny case in past decades, the comatose and brain-dead patient was finally taken off life support and to everyone’s surprise, continued to live in a comatose state for some time before finally expiring ‘naturally’. Nevertheless, a feeding tube was necessary in order to keep the body alive for that extended period of ‘independence’. Irreversible brain death is the end of physical life as we know it, all religious considerations aside – and in fact, the heart as the spiritual center of life is metaphorical rather than literal – it is a recognition that life is not necessarily lived exclusively ‘in the head’. The heart is traditionally felt to be the seat of emitions….whether the physical heart really has such affective functions must remain speculative. Looking at the profound concept of ‘the cave of the heart’ in Vedanta and Buddhist lore, it is believed that the spark of imperishable divine life resides there. This does not refer to a physical organ or even a spacial location, however. In all religions, a belief in the continuation of life after death in some form is a given. In all cases, that afterlife is as inevitable as death itself. Why keep a body alive in a perpetual vegatative state (as well as imprisoning the soul or life force), when the life beyond awaits? This ultimately seems to reflect the selfishness of those survivors that would keep the living body of their brain-dead loved one around because ‘something is better than nothing’. And then there is cost – and a very high cost indeed. Who is paying to keep this brain-dead individual alive indefinitely? Eventually (and rather quickly) insurance runs out – and then what? Personal savings would be exhausted in a flash…..the state is not and should not be responsible for keeping such individuals alive indefinitely.Complications arise when medical personnel are influenced by their religious convictions, as in the case of abortion rights. When a fetus actually becomes viable (quickens) remains the subject of ferocious debate, even among medical authorities. Not to mention certain physicians and pharmacists that refuse to prescribe birth control or morning-after medications – much less perform abortions. All well and good, but it should be their medical responsibility to refer patients to practitioners that will meet their medical needs. Criminalizing abortion is no answer to this conundrum – as we know, religious authorities even today are not doing all that they could do in regard to promoting sex education and the use of conventional birth control methods. In fact, the Catholic Church officially resists this common sense wisdom with a vengeance. This being the case, their official position against pro-choice and abortion rights is largely nullified.Roe v Wade will assuredly remain the law of the land.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Abortion is about using artificial means to kill what science declares a human life – a living and growing human being merely looking different, and capable of different activity, at different stages of development, just like a new born child and an adult looks different and is capable of different activity.Yet some religious groups rob a growing child of its right to life, resorting to the unnatural method of reaching into the womb and using force to kill the growing child.So the vital question remains: what artificial human intervention is permitted to take life, as in aboriton or to create an illusion of life, as in this case?

  • persiflage

    Reference – Mary Joe Kopechny should have instead been Karen Ann Quinlan with regard to the historical life support case mentioned in my comment. MJK was noted for a different historical episode altogether…..stuck in my still-living brain from a recent article on the topic.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    It is true that heartbeat can be taken as a sign of life. But the question is, what if that heartbeat would not exist without a machine to force it? And what if the machine does is not sufficient to bring life to the dead brain, no matter how long it forces the heart to pump artificially?Conclusion:

  • msadesign

    Wouldn’t external viability be a reasonable compromise? That way, no silliness about zygotes, but on the other hand, no late-term terminations, either.And I remind my friends on the other side of this issue: NOBODY is ‘pro-abortion’. Let’s use words less emotionally charged. I wonder if aggressive birth control would both halt the appalling population explosion of the world and slow the rate of abortion.

  • Hokuto

    prolifeactivistborn59 claims, “Hard core medical science defines human life as beginning with the single celled zygote”Well, if that’s “hard core” it needs to retreat to a bit more modesty about its region of expertise. It can be argued that human life does not begin with the zygote, but with the individual sperm and egg, which are the living ancesters of the individual. Religiously, it is that concept of a prior origin of life or “conception” that has moved the Catholic Church to argue that the human being begins in the mind of god, thus making it a sin to use any form of birth control other than abstinence (“rhythm”), since BC thwarts God’s preexisting plan for that life (to join this sperm with that egg). That seems to me just as consistent a position as arguing that a zygote is a full human being, deserving of all the constitutional protections. I think most of us still prefer a more ambiguous definition that works on a sliding scale, one which assumes that a human being “becomes” over a period of time, not as the result of an instantaneous state change. Even a zygote is the result of an ongoing process, since it takes some time for the DNA of the two cells to combine, and sometimes multiple sperms penetrate a single egg, requiring time before it gets sorted out which sperm is going to “take.”In short, scientifically, a zygote is a zygote: the union of a living sperm and a living egg. The claim that the result constitutes a “human being” is a cultural argument, not scientific, since science *alone* has no unequivocal means for making that determination; it requires the preexisting cultural construct of what constitutes a “human being.” In turn, that situation contributes to the modern problem of defining human rights: what is the universally accepted definition of “human”? Since the Enlightenment at least, the prime (though not only) focus has been on intelligence, thus leading to certain current trends toward extending “human rights” to members of the animal kingdom like whales and apes, and the notion that cessation of intellectual functions with brain death constitutes death of the human individual.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO:Your pseudo sophisticated but UNSCIENTIFIC arguments have been dealt with on other blogs on this forum.If you don’t want to read them, then I suggest you get yourself the latest edition of the standard embryology texbook, The Developing Human by Moore and Persaud.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO, as I have advised other pro-abortionists elsewhere on this forum: don’t expose your ignorance of human embryology. Writing false stuff ever so confidently is NOT enough. It still remains WRONG.Read real science, not the propaganda and lies touted by pro-abortionist groups.

  • semidouble

    There is not a single word in the bible about machines that keep people alive artificially. Also no mention of electricity, quarks, nuclear power, heart transplants and abortion. So much about the religious side of the debate.

  • nastycelt

    Here are two comments I posted in The Vancouver Sun yesterday regarding the assisted suicide debate.In the not too distant future I’ll be faced with a choice. To lay in a hospital bed hooked up to machines, pumped full of painkillers (which always make me nauseous,) crapping in a diaper and slowly drowning while waiting for my lungs to fill with fluid and bring me peace or to end my own life at home after saying goodbye to my family and friends. I’ll choose the latter of course because while both journeys end at the same destination the former includes a side trip to Guantanamo. As a bonus for my choice, my country won’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of scarce health care dollars on my rendition (I live in Canada.) I see it as a win win situation. I just don’t care about the law. I’ve always been more concerned with right and wrong as opposed to legal and illegal.While considering death with dignity one often makes the mistake of putting oneself in the position of the dying but I think that’s the wrong approach if one wants to discover their true humanity. Instead put your 8 year old daughter at deaths door. Ahead of her, a lingering and painful death. God has turned away. It’s up to you. They will tell you of of their great concern for her comfort and of the best pain management regimens but that will be a lie. They will pump her full of hydromorphone, a second rate painkiller, because they don’t want her to get hooked on heroin, a first rate painkiller. Even if it has less uncomfortable side effects, heroin carries so much bad baggage in the press. Can’t have that can we? Will you watch her little body twist with pain while racked with fever confident that this is what a God would want? What sort of God would want this? Would you step in to ease her suffering? How could you not? How could we be so comfortable with the concept of putting an animal out of it’s misery yet so willing to inflict that same misery on those we profess to love? Ask yourself those questions…And then ask yourself what those who love you should do. In closing, I think the word “suicide” is not the right word to use in this debate. It carries a stigma, a sense of giving up, of quitting on life when options are available to us. Sometimes some of us just run out our options. That’s what’s on our plate and we have to deal with it. We can call it release. Some of us are forced to go earlier than we’d like because we must die by our own hand before we become trapped in our bodies, unable choose anymore. We ask that you respect us and respect our choice. We’re not giving up on life. We’re giving up on an unnecessarily painful death

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    NASTYCELT:When abortion was made a constitutional right, the rate of abortion skyrocketed. Ninety eight percent of abortions are for convenience, not for the reasons that it was first fought for – real health problems of the mother. Euthanasia and assisted suicide will most likely go the same way. The book, Amsterdam by Ian McEwan makes for a good reflection on the topic. It won the Booker Prize.

  • wabarkle

    The problem i have with the pro-life argument is not the conception of when life begins. Its the fact that, regardless of when life begins, being anti-choice assumes that the rights and life of a bundle of cells – living though they may be – is more valuable than the life of the woman carrying that bundle of cells.I don’t mean this dramatically. Not every terminated pregnancy is terminated because the life of the mother is endangered. And there are , of course, people who use abortion irresponsibly. But, for my friends who have had abortions, it has literally been a choice between finishing their educations, being able to continue a job, and providing for themselves and the family they have or giving birth to a child they cannot financially or emotionally care for.I am proudly pro-choice. I am also pro-life. How does this work? I believe that women have a right to live their lives to the fullest degree, and however they see fit…whether or not that includes a child.Trust women!

  • lovinliberty

    This is a terrible and heart wrenching situation. I really feel for this family and respect their desire to meet the obligations of their religion as they see them. Nonetheless, while it may be the Brody family’s right to keep their son’s body alive, they do not have the right to force this institution, Children’s Hospital, to be the one to maintain his physical being. This hospital has limited resources and other children and families that need them. Those resources may be a matter of life or death for those other families. Children’s should be allowed to tranfer the boy to his family and presumably the family will care for him and/or find another facility to care for him. In this way, the family’s wishes and the hospital’s needs can both be met. Anything less means that families can hold onto important medical resources indefinitely and even when by any widely recognized MEDICAL definition, someone has passed away.

  • Jerusalimight

    Like the Brody family, I have read the sections of the Talmud that say quite clearly that heartbeat is life. I agree with them wholeheartedly, and I think it is quite against the laws of separation of church and state to deny this interpretation.This is not like abortion, or any other act whereby people try to prevent other people from doing something. This is a case of positively taking action to do what some people believe will end a life against their wishes.It’s like forcing abortion upon people who want to keep the baby.It is quite easy to keep this child on the machine. Why pull the plug? Just to prove you are “right?” Get…a…life…

  • nastycelt

    ProLifeActivistBorn59, Why just focus on the responsibility of women? Don’t forget it takes two to bango.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    NASTYCELT: Of course it takes two to “bango.”As of now, only women get pregnant and they alone have the right to abort the unborn child for her convenience and as a right.Statistics have shown that upto 88% of women seeking abortions are UNmarried, and most of them are below the age of 24.As to men and responsibility: O well, mothers fighting for child support payments should reveal the success with that one.

  • agapian

    This ongoing discussion involves various aspects of where four dimensional life begins and ends, the same process that all of the Spiritual Scriptures have spent 6500 years defining. In many ways, The definitions could only deal with three dimensions at a given instant in life. A caveman might throw one of his children to a saber toothed tiger in order to protect the rest. A Chin Dynasty or a Ramses Dynasty father might sacrifice his autistic child to a ‘god’ because the child didn’t have the normal traits of a human mind. Later, Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims (and even Polynesian Kahunas) began differentiating between individuals who were conscious of not only material needs in four dimensions and the increasing numbers who began to evolve higher perceptions of their surroundings as religious or spiritual ‘empathies’. Many who call themselves atheists now are careful to renounce the four dimensional definitions of ‘god(s)’ without suggesting that the human spirit also doesn’t exist. Many, many of those ‘scientific analysts’ who use fMRI and QEEG brain mapping technologies have determined that brain cognition or awareness is not the sum of brain molecular interaction but a ‘heuristic spirit’ that is formed by the ability of those billions of molecules to interact in increasingly complex modes that don’t add to each others power but multiply them. The development of that ‘heuristic spirit’ in some form is a principle definition of human life and its absence, which was never satisfactorily detected or understood until recently, was an indicator that human consciousness was no longer or never was present.The point here is that QEEG signal going back and forth to a brain from a heart it is not an indicator of human life. It would be only if it triggered complex neural patterns in the Parietal and Cingulate Cortexes of the brain but not merely as a signal by itself from the heart. With all due respect to the Spiritual Scriptures, they were written in periods when Man did not know what a synaptic neural transmitter did and it is now up to people (ordained by Creation, perhaps?) to determine whether another person still has the ‘heuristic spirit’ that defines him as living. That decision should be made by a consensus of ‘life jurors’ rather than a judge because the ‘life jurors’ would need more technical skills than either a judge or a family could have. Such compassionate jurors would also be able to review the motives of others involved. There have been at least two cases where it was determined that relatives wanted the person left on life support as a punishment, so perhaps those closest to a ‘brain dead’ individual shouldn’t be the only ones making decisions in the ‘spiritual’ interests of a person.

  • badcrosbys1

    Can one of you religious scholars please pass along gods phone number. I’d love to actually hear his opinion from, Oh , maybe god himself. Ya didn’t think so.

  • jimarush

    What is death? What religion can define death? If God told us to cry upon entering this earth and to rejoice when we leave, is it not going against God’s word to agonize about death? What possible motive could a family have to prolong someone else’s life? Is it their fear of dying? Is it a lack of faith in the word of God? The first death is supposed to be the precursor to the second everlasting life that religious people seek. Are these people lying to themselves? Are these religious people really atheist who believe that this life is the only life and that the promises of God and his Son Jesus are not true?The farce of being a born again Christian is an attempted end run around the first death which is the death of the body. The second death, the death of the soul is what we should worry about and try to avoid. There is no such thing as saving or preserving life in our bodies. The person on life support is going to die no matter what anyone including the family decides. The question of death is simply answered by do you or don’t you believe in the word of God.The brain dead person has moved on. If that person made peace with God he or she is probably laughing at the stupidity of those that tried to delay their entrance into heaven.

  • yehudisg

    Few of the comments acknowledge the problem for the Brodys, most likely because they are unfamiliar with the nuances of the halachic debate on this issue.

  • PatStrickland

    Why all the screamming about abortion. This case has nothing to do with that. Some say brain dead is dead, some say no heartbeat is dead. I say the answer is in God’s hands. Unplug the child. If God so wills it he will live. If God does not so will he will take him home. No argument on this folks. either you believe God knows what is best and that His will should be done or you don’t

  • yangpu61

    The article is very interesting and very sad; and the public comments are meaningful and rewarding to read.Based only on the details provided,”Reasoned Dismissal” resolves this matter. To know more, consult your local Mystic. To know less, consult your local Priest.

  • ibmama2

    to Nasty Celt: November 9, 2008 11:45 PMThank you for your post. You so clearly, beautifully and poignantly showed the dilemmas facing those adults with painful & debilitating terminal illnesses who want release. I am sorry that some have taken this conversation away to again rehash abortion. Harder for adults to conceive of this child scenario or their own death, I gather.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    PatStrickland:Why all the screamming about abortion. This case has nothing to do with that. Some say brain dead is dead, some say no heartbeat is dead. I say the answer is in God’s hands. Unplug the child. If God so wills it he will live. If God does not so will he will take him home. No argument on this folks. either you believe God knows what is best and that His will should be done or you don’tNovember 10, 2008 4:40 AM__________________________________________________Medical science says brain death can’t be reversed. The heart and lungs are only being kept functioning mechanically and it would shut down as soon as the machines are shut off. But to loved ones the mechanical functioning made possible with a machine gives an illusion of life. Hence the reluctance to allow the hospital to shut down the machine.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    yehudisg:Few of the comments acknowledge the problem for the Brodys, most likely because they are unfamiliar with the nuances of the halachic debate on this issue.November 10, 2008 3:11 AM________________________________________________The problem is that medical science has come to a definition of death based on empirical criteria. Brain death is irreversible and the heart and lung are only being kept functioning mechanically with a machine with no impact on the brain and with no hope of ever reviving its activity.The parents incur no sin in accepting the medical definition of death, after all they trusted the medical standards in leaving the child in the care of the hospital. No Jewish law could have included a provision for the situation that is possible today simply because of technical advancement. However even machines can do only so much. Life is given by God and He alone has the power to take it. Medical doctors can do only so much to sustain life. Creating a mere illusion of life with a machine could not possibly be God’s definition of human life.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Medical science arrived at the definition of death with brain death. It did so based on enough scientific data.If the definition has been agreed upon by the scientific community, they have the right to impose it in their practice of medicine. Anyone who comes to the hospital would know that the hospital operates by the criteria that has been accepted. What else can the hospital do but operate within its parameters? Maybe there might be a miracle, one in a million patient may suddenly come back to life after being on the heart lung machine for many years. But can the hospital fill its ICU beds hoping for such miracles, which may or may not happen?

  • democratus

    Unplug the machines, if the heart stops you are dead. Jeez is that too hard to understand. On the monetary side, which I think is the real point we should look at, if the family wants to spend all of its money keeping a dead person’s heart beating, don’t they have the right? That is unfortunate, in a way, because a seriouslsy injured live person could be deprived of the same machinery becasue of the selfish use by a grieving family.

  • _virginian_

    This is sad to be sure, but I think the parents are being quite selfish by insisting their brain-dead child continue to occupy a hospital bed that can benefit someone else more. I’d say that if this family wants to keep their kid “alive,” they should set up the appropriate facilities in their own home, at their own cost. That way the hospital doesn’t have to be involved, the bed is opened up for someone else, and the parents can marvel at their kid’s beating heart.

  • pas_momma

    It seems this situation will require the wisdom of Solomon to resolve. A judge must decide who has the right to determine the fate of the child. To the doctors at the hospital, the child is dead. To the state, the child is dead. To the insurance company, the child is dead. If he is not dead to the parents or to the orthodox Jewish community, then they must assume all manner of his care, including feeding him, bathing him, and paying the full cost of the ventilator and hospital room, etc. If they refuse to do so, then they have made the choice that he is no longer their child. The state can resume his care as they choose and bury him along with all of the other abandoned souls in the city. The true parents of the baby placed before King Solomon had to make the choice to give the baby away in order to save it. Can the parents of Motl do the same?

  • JerryDunietz

    Just to clarify:The Brody family belongs to a small, fringe, cultish, non-mainstream sect within Judaism. I feel it is important that readers understand that the Brody family’s views and those of their Rav (Rabbi) do NOT represent the growing consensus within all streams of modern Judaism–even Modern Orthodox–regarding end of life issues. I had the privilege of hearing Rabbi Barry Freundel, of Kesher Israel Congregation, Georgetown’s Orthodox synagogue, speak on this issue more than ten years ago. Even then, he noted the ongoing changes regarding Jewish bioethics and end-of-life issues in light of the state of medical science and art. For example, contrary to popular belief, organ harvesting and transplantation are now permitted, even encouraged, under his understanding of Halacha, as a life-saving measure which is no longer experimental. I want readers to understand this. The Brodys’ Rabbi’s position on Halacha is not indicative of the majority view. Talmudicists will tell you that in virtually all cases, normative Jewish law is defined by the position taken by the majority of Halachic authorities–not by those in the minority. One final note–Halacha does change with the times. Please don’t denigrate traditional Jewish beliefs with the canard that the law was written before the advent of science and technology. Jewish law evolves with the times and always has done so.

  • sparrow4

    this is a family grieving and torn by what they know to be biologically true and Talmudic Law. as is the case with many religions the clash between faith and science is often huge and devastating. However, just because science has defined death by brain death, the human being on the machine is still a person with rights, as is the family. prolifer wrote:”If the definition has been agreed upon by the scientific community, they have the right to impose it in their practice of medicine. Anyone who comes to the hospital would know that the hospital operates by the criteria that has been accepted.”Hospitals have taken parents to court who don’t believe in blood transfusions (J’s witnesses), or in medical care (Christian scientists), or those cults that believe in praying over sick children- many of whom have died from a lack of medical care. So bottom line- they have no rights to impose anything.And “pulling the plug” shouldn’t be easy. Even in doctor assisted suicide- it should be fought each time to make us remember that as a society we hold a huge responsibility to the living. And don’t rehash this into your abortion=murder rap again. I’m referring to those souls who are born, not zygotes.

  • nowayyousaidthat

    I think they should let the hospital remove all the artificial items keeping him alive and see if he lives much longer. I have two children, and I dont think I could bear seeing my child not able to do these things for himself. This seems to me that they’re trying to impose their religious beliefs on a system that doesnt incorporate religion.Sadly, this child is dead, and they are unwilling to let him go for whatever reason. They would see that if only they’d remove him from the machines keeping his body alive. Parents, let his body go, you are only prolonging the inevitable…

  • Msbeauty59

    I beleieve that God is the only one to call the shots on this. I am a mother who has lost her child and I feel for the parents of this child to have a make a decision like this. If I could have brought my son back I would have under any means necessary, I would have fought to have his life prolonged. We as a people tend to make stupid comments as I have seen on this page because it’s not you that it’s happening to. Until you have been in this family’s shoes please stop with the negative comments, we all have our cross to bear whether it is our children or just everyday life issues.

  • ridagana

    Some 30 years ago my wife gave birth to a child in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The doctors told me that the baby was sverely handicapped, had difficulty breading, and the heard wasn’t working well. The only way to save it was to fly it to Miami. We decided not to and the child died one day later. My wife was in pain for several months and then realized that we made the right decision.

  • sparrow4

    msbeauty59- I am so sorry, and yes, you’re right. It’s obvious the family is heartbroken, and at the same time they bear a responsibility to their son, and the rest of their family. And also to the hospital. At some point I think they will realize that what they do is not for him, but for them, and perhaps accept that if a machine is the only thing keeping his heart beating, then his soul is gone and only the empty shell remains. How hard it is to know that, if you believe in souls, and to know when the body is incapable of holding one.

  • Alex511

    fr prolifesupporterborn59:>…Prolife websites also give reliable information for they have no vested interest like the abortion industry (which promotes abortion with not thoroughly reliable statistics, in order to make money). Um, SO not true. I’d much rather get the FACTS from a good site like Planned Parenthood, who works to give low-to-no cost medical care that is based on REALITY and FACTUAL information.

  • lepidopteryx

    Msbeauty59 : Until you have been in this family’s shoes please stop with the negative comments, we all have our cross to bear whether it is our children or just everyday life issues.Been there. I was with my mom when she had to make these decisions for my grandmother, only it was the other way round. My grandmother had TOLD my mom how much artificial intervention she considered acceptable, but she never put it in writing. When the hospital inserted a feeding tube into my comatose grandmother AFTER my mom told then not to because that was one of the things my grandmother had told my mom she absolutely did not want, my mom raised 40 kinds of hell before she was able to get the thing removed.The situation with my grandmother was what prompted me to have a detailed living will put into writing and to create so many redundancies with it – I wanted no room for doubt if I was unable to speak for myself.

  • penance09

    These kinds of situations are always excrutiating for all parties involved. I understand that people want to maintain the sanctity of life, but come on… At some point these parents need to put the need of their child ahead of their own. Set him free. This isn’t a question of religion, at least not for me. This is a matter of quality of life. And, sadly, this boy has none. Again, set him free.

  • barrylist1

    As an Orthodox Jew, I support the grieving family, even if, according to the columnist, there is a dispute among Orthodox Jewish clergy about whether brain death or heart death is decisive. That being said, there’s a cold, economic issue here: the tremendous cost to the family, insurance company, and government of sustaining a brain-dead patient. This is tricky, and although legislators must decide, there can be no satisfactory answer.

  • Jerusalimight

    I understand the “limited resources” argument quite well, I think. It goes like this:We have limited resources at our disposal. Sometimes pouring them all into one person who is, according to our definition, not alive, uses up vital resources that could be used to save other lives. Therefore the child’s parents must either pay for the continued maitenance of their child or we must defer the resources to other people and pull the plug.This argument screams ‘Nonsense!’ What if pulling the plug would indeed kill some child? Would any reader approve of murder as an effective way to sort out resources?Let 60 people come into the emergency room with life-threatening problems. Decide to treat no more than 50 of them. Let the rest die.Ridiculous.What the people who propound the “limited resources” argument are really saying is, “My way or the highway: let him die.”That’s Bush morals. We have a new administration.

  • swissmiss150

    There is an editorial in the 11/10/08 Post today which states the child’s parents have not visited their son since late July.Why don’t they plan to come to D.C. for a few days and observe him? It seems very selfish to me to insist that a lot of staff time and money be spent to maintain this child’s physical self. Let him rest in peace.

  • rlgrennie1

    Sorry Froggie, we just celebrated the beginning of the year 5769, which is the age of our calendar. Our religion is not just “a bit older than Christianity”. You are seriously misinformed as to the age of Judaiism.

  • lepidopteryx

    Jerusalimight :Ridiculous.

  • bnebeker

    As a father who was faced with this excruciating decision 8 years ago, my heart goes out to this family. It is tough to balance religious beliefs with medical realities coupled with the responsiblity to yourself and your child. May God help them in this.

  • wayoffbaseguy

    God did pull the plug. It’s people trying the rig the outcome.

  • yi35

    These are indeed difficult decisions for anyone to face when we are confronted with that which is unknowable-what exactly is life, and when does it end? No one, neither medical science nor religious texts, it seems, has a 100% unequivocal answer that can be reduced to simple yes, or no, in situations such as this one. Instead of defining death, it may be easier for the family to ask: what constitutes life? Is the beating of this heart enough? If this were me, I’d also want to ask whether the loved one would have wanted to continue to live in this state and what cost this imposes (not just financial, but more important, emotionally) on those still living.Ultimately, I do lean towards the belief that the higher consciousness, or soul, chooses when it will leave the physical body. The needs of others left behind are irrelevant to the soul’s higher journey. Modern science, with its technology of being able to keep people alive, has been a double-edged sword. On one hand it has graciously saved and extended lives, but on the other, it has made it harder for the soul to exit, and shifted that decision over to the actively living. A hundred years ago, this child, like so many others, would have long died and been buried. Tears would have shed, families would have grieved, losses held in the heart; but the cycle of life would have continued with its joy and heartbreak. This is not a yearning to go back to this earlier time, for how many of us would be willing to give up heart surgery, pain killers, or life-saving antibiotics? But it does mean that we now have to grapple with these difficult questions for which there are not any easy answers and that force us to grow spiritually.In this instance, where a family is so guided by faith and belief, perhaps they need to have a conversation with God, and their son, and wait for an answer to come. The heart is the seat of compassion, and if it continues to beat with a purpose, it will speak to those willing to temporarily clear their minds of opinion and belief, and simply listen. Yassir Islam

  • jprfrog

    AlgrennieMaybe I was being a little too pedantic, and we may be disputing a matter of semantics…but (1) the calendar is dated from the supposed date of Creation, not from the foundation of Judaism. (2) The 12 tribes were descended from Jacob, renamed Israel after he wrestled with the angel (BTW, my favorite story…my Hebrew name is Jacob also and I feel a strong identification with the old swindler), which is thought to have happened (if it really did) around 1600 BC. The people who were enslaved in Egypt were Hebrews, or Israelites, not Jews (yet).Rabbinic Judaism — which is the direct progenitor of today’s practice — emerged, as I said, after the destruction of the Second Temple. That it survived at all was a tribute to the ingenuity and committment of the men who revamped it, re-interpreting the writings (which also codified what was to be included in Scripture and what was left out — a lot of very interesting stuff) that had centered the religion on the Temple in Jerusalem and animal sacrifice, to a religion that was dispersed over the world and was practiced in daily life, centered in the home and the synagogue (a Greek word BTW).You might find it amusing that I am an atheist of Jewish origin who probably has a longer shelf of books on religion (and I read them, including the Bible) than of any other topic except 20th century history or chess. I love to spend time talking about this stuff…fortunately I am a retired alte kaker so it doesn’t really cause any harm! I must have some of my zaide’s Talmudist genes.That said, I think the incident that started this thread is quite troubling and worthy of serious thought. In passing, my brother is a physician and several doctors that I know have all said the same thing in re Terry Schivo’s post-mortem brain scan: a good deal of here cerebral cavity was filled with fluid, and so even if some lower level reflexes like light responsiveness (which occurs in amoebae too) were still operating, she had no brain function in the human sense at all. This poor child in New York is even worse off: his brain stem is not working, so he has less function than a reptile. Without machines, his heart would stop too. It seems to me that there are strong, Talmud-based arguments for letting his body die. If he has a soul (how do you determine that?) it is probably long gone.

  • kjohnson3

    yehudisg,You note that “They cannot just ‘unplug’ him. According to Torah law, this would be the equivalent of willingly becoming accessories to murder. Of their own child.”I wonder, though, if this case isn’t different in that, legally, the hospital isn’t requesting their approval. The child has been declared brain dead according to civil law; the hospital has the right to disconnect the ventilaor and withhold medication. The parents, since they are not being asked for permission, cannot be accessories to murder by any definition.Can they?

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO:Professor Scott Gilbert is a biologist. You should let him be the authority on deciding when a turtle should be given right to life.Leave it to human embryologists, to tell the rest of us when a human being first becomes a unique entity. It is at the stage of the zygote.

  • sharon15

    Give the child some Ambien.Many people with brain damage and persistent vegetative states have “woken up” when given Ambien(paradoxically)–Google it and see. The brain shuts down when such an injury occurs as a protective mechanism and can register as being brain dead but several individuals have regained consciousness when given Ambien

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO:You don’t have to sift through millions of websites recommended by Google. The Developing Human by Moore and Persaud is a standard human embryology textbook used in most medical schools in the US.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO:Hippocrates, a Greek pagan, the Father of Western medicine, was no pseudo scientist. He forbade the doctors from doing abortions. He lived in a pagan culture where sexual morals were free and abortion was rampant.

  • Hokuto

    ProLifeActivistBorn59 still doesn’t get it: “The Developing Human by Moore and Persaud is a standard human embryology textbook . . .”You’re arguing to a straw man. I don’t have need of an embryology texbook. “Human being” is a moral and legal construct, not merely the scientific definition of a piece of tissue as found in an embryology textbook. When we define something as a human being we attribute to it qualities that give it certain protections and rights under the law. I want to know why scientists should be delegated with some special wisdom and responsibility for making that decision.

  • nastycelt

    ProLifeActivistBorn59;You said When abortion was made a constitutional right, the rate of abortion skyrocketed. Well in truth we can’t be sure can we. We don’t know how many illegal abortions were being performed before the law changed. I agree that too many women use abortion as birth control but I have to ask myself if these women are ready to raise a child if that option disappears. I wonder what the statistics say about the number of children in foundling homes and orphanages. By how much did their numbers drop? As an adoptee myself I feel I may speak for the unwanted aborted children as I came close to becoming one, closer than most of you I’m sure. I see two intractable positions and I think I may have a solution that would please most of you. I propose that instead of being aborted the fetus is removed from the womb and grown in vitro in an artificial womb. We’re doing wonderful work with preemies now so the science isn’t that far off. There is an abundance of couples waiting to adopt healthy babies. In the future I see most babies being born this way but I sure hope we stick with the old fashion method of conception. I’ll admit to being a bit of a Luddite as far as that’s concerned.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HOKUTO:Hippocrates is the Father of Western medicine.I suggest you read his oath which goes back 2400 years, and remember modification of the oath, with the same principle has been used by medical doctors have been used ever since. For good measure read the modern international version of it:The Declaration of Geneva: Physician’s Oath of 1948.Medical doctors are expected to function as healers and to save lives, not to take them.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    NASTYCELT:I got my statistics from the website of a PhD Space Physics student, William Robert Johnston, who has done a really fantastic job of compiling data from reliable sources. Prolife websites also give reliable information for they have no vested interest like the abortion industry (which promotes abortion with not thoroughly reliable statistics, in order to make money).

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    HUKOTO:A moral and legal construct is what a human being is NOT!Morality and laws are at the mercy of those who formulate them. Slaves had no rights according to law at one time. It was moral to own slaves, buy and sell human beings. So much for the infallibility of morals and laws concerning the rights awarded to human beings.Biology decides whether a human being is alive or not, and when human being is a unique entity. Not the whim of a moralist or court. I suggest you read the report submitted to the Supreme Court by the American Medical Council in regard to Roe vs Wade. You’d be surprised at what conclusion they reached.

  • KeirGazelle

    Back in 1967 I had a beautiful baby girl…three weeks after her birth she died of Spinal Meningitis…her fever was 106 and this burned out her brain. She was left with out the hope of a normal life or maybe a very short one filled with disabilities past those any child should have to take. My child died..her doctors said that she would not have even the ability to think. How can a human have life without thought? There is no self awareness…that is not human life..that is being no more then an ameoba. A heart is simply an organ…in the ancient days before humanity understood what the brain and mind was…the heart was given the seat of love and wisdom. The ability to get a new heart does not change our memories or our loves. It is the brain and the Consiousness…the Mind that is our humanity. terra

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    NASTYCELT:We are not at the age of artificial wombs yet. Even cloning requires an egg and a womb. In the meantime, how about insisting that women take a little more responsibility for the consequences of their actions?

  • Farnaz2

    Yehudisg:Few of the comments acknowledge the problem for the Brodys, most likely because they are unfamiliar with the nuances of the halachic debate on this issue.Assuming the Brodys have consulted Orthodox Jewish ethicists, I would think that they responded in the terms you set forth. They have not been given the opportunity to let the child go. Pulling the plug would be from a Halachic perspective, indeed, from any perspective, an act, for the Brodys an act of murder. Given their beliefs, they have no choice but to proceed as they have.In the meantime, my heart goes out to them, and I can only hope this ends in a way they can live with.

  • Farnaz2

    YoungJ1:I have a great deal of empathy for this family but again it is just another example of arbitrary religious dogma standing in the way of the order of things. may this young man and his family find peace.The problem, from a Halachic viewpoint is, IMHO, not arbitrary. If the child had not already been “plugged in,” nature could be allowed to take its course.However, he is “plugged in.” Hence to remove the plug would be as YehudisG points out the equivalent of murder, and one need look no further to the Torah to find the following: Thou shalt not kill.People like the Brody’s take this sort of thing seriously.I cannot say what I, myself, would do of faced with such circumstances. However, having been in one not too far removed, my guess is that I would probably do as much research as possible as quickly as possible and then decide, I suspect, to remove the plug. But then I am not the Brodys, nor is anyone else on this thread.

  • youngj1

    This is just a thought but how about the family allowing the childs heart to beat on it’s own, without the intervention of intubation. If he continues a steady rhythm that is one thing and if he does not then that is the other. But the idea that he is alive as long s his heart beats means he can live as long as the machines can keep him alive.I have a great deal of empathy for this family but again it is just another example of arbitrary religious dogma standing in the way of the order of things. may this young man and his family find peace.

  • Bill64738

    I fail to understand the dilemma. If the Brody’s believe their son is still alive and they’re willing to pay to maintain that state, how is that your or my business?And if they want someone else to pay, how dare they presume to reject the beliefs of the folks footing the bill!

  • JerryDunietz

    Without going to my bookshelf, I cannot give the citation or remember the names of the players, but there is an informative story in the Talmud.A great Rabbi was on his deathbed. His colleagues and disciples were gathered around him. Their prayers were the only thing that was keeping him alive. Seeing his suffering, his maid went up on the roof and flung down some pots, to create a distraction. The rabbis’ concentration was broken when they were startled by the noise, which allowed the sick Rabbi to die peacefully and end his suffering.The maid’s actions were deemed praiseworthy by the commentators. Her common sense and compassion were worth more than the attempts to keep someone alive when there was no hope for recovery.The moral of the story should be obvious and, I think, applicable today. There are times when the Jewish value of compassion must prevail, even when it seems to violate the general halachic rule to choose life.

  • cletus1

    People who die should get used to being dead. If they are unsatisfied with being dead, they can always be more dead. Brain dead people generally don’t think much about the consequences of being removed from life support. If they did, it is probable they would not be brain-dead.

  • marysrn

    If this situation goes on much longer, then the ethics committee of the hospital, the social service department, the doctors, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, radiologists, chief nursing officers, all should have a meeting with the parents, and the family’s clergy, to adhere to the family’s and their clergy’s wishes…leave the boy on life support, BUT, as soon as possible, facilitate a transfer out of the hospital, either to home with appropriate care of the boy arranged for by the home health agency chosen, or to a skilled nursing facility..should one be found that will accept him. Also, proper arrangements for payment for these out-of-hospital treatments can be made. Being respectful of Jewish law, it still requires that the poor child be held hostage to these treatments, that, after a time, will themselves become instruments of death. And, another question that requires the Rabbinical answer: Even if the medications keep the dead boy’s heart beating, wouldn’t even Jewish law admit the boy was dead when (not IF) putrifaction sets in? And, it will.

  • jimmyminder

    I recall a recent story about a woman who lived in her house with two siblings who were dead. One had been dead since the 1980s.Of course they were not dead to her.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    The deeply spiritual people I have known or read about have wanted exactly the opposite of wanting to be kept alive mechanically. They opt for palliative care and conscious preparation for death when medical science has done all it can. They look upon death as a passing on to another dimension. The soul is eager to move on without being trapped in the body by artificial means. Buddha taught that birth, illness, old age and death were inevitable phases of human life and inevitable sources of suffering. His search was to find a relief from the suffering without denying the inevitable realities of life. How could any religious law have been written with artificial prolongation of life in the body with machines in mind, when the brain was completely dead? Shouldn’t real life in the body be tested without a machine?

  • rlgrennie1

    Frog first of all, we became Jews as soon as we determined we had but one God, which definitely preceded two thousand years. Second, there really is no such thing as an “atheistic Jew” unless you sewed a part of your anatomy back on in your later years.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    The only problem is lying hooked to a machine when the brain is long dead is not about living with dignity either. Since brain death is irreversible and a hospital has only so many beds, they have to draw the line somewhere. If a patient gets to live miraculously at home without a machine, then by all means. A Jewish hospital operating on religious laws must feel free to keep all brain dead patients on heart lung machines as long as relatives want. But otherwise, it is unfair to deny patients with some chance of being helped back to normal life their chance in the hospital because all beds are taken up by brain dead patients kept there indefinitely at the request of their relatives, who understandably don’t want to cope with the pain and loss (or at least postpone it as long as they possibly can) involved in the death of a family member.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Ariel Sharon, the former PM of Israel, is supposedly only in a vegetative state. He is NOT brain dead nor on a heart lung machine. His brain stem is still intact.Anyone care to clarify?

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Ariel Sharon is supposedly being taken care of in a chronic care facility, not in the intensive care of a normal hospital which has a high turnover of acute care patients.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Medical science has no religious affiliation. Yet there is no concern because medical ethics is satisfactory.

  • rationalthinker2

    Religion should have absolutely no influence on any decisions that have to be made in this case.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    My experiences in life have been very, very different. I have never known anyone who was hooked up to machines in the hospital and kept “going” by artificial, “heroic” means.It has been my experience with my grandmother, father, and brother, along with some other distant relatives, friends, and aquaintances, that they must struggle to acquire basic medical care. As a rule, when people are dying in America, they do not get too much care; they get, not-enough, care. These types of stories are just sensational anomalies, in my “humble” opinion.

  • jaxas

    This is the sort of thing that happens when personal religious beliefs are permitted to guide decisions on life and death. The sad collection of musculature, nerve bundlings and whatever nutrients are pumped into this body to keep it in a physical state of life, will simply lie there, unaware, unfeeling, unknowing at all of the mindless debate going on around it. I say it because the child that once was has left forever.So, it just goes on with no resolution, no closure. Whether it is this lump of flesh that no longer reacts to a viable, living brain, or whether it is a collection of cells without sentience or personality, it is all the same. Nothing happens. This mass of flesh will go on in this state of non-meaningful life. This collection of stem cells will stay in this frozen state until someone decides it is no longer useful to store.And the minds who perpetuate this madness will go on deceiving themselves that they are doing the will of some vague, ambiguous superbeing “out there” somewhere commanding all of this.

  • nastycelt

    In one hundred years science will be able to keep a pound of hamburger alive. Does that mean we should?

  • RaoTayi

    Yet another illustration of how religion corrupts everything. Their grief aside, this family due to their belief in bronze age myths are ready to sacrifice other lives that may be saved with the use of the critical medical equipment that is helping keep that dead child’s heart beating. Who is crying for all those who may have died because the equipment is unavailable for them. Isn’t that murder? Religion should be dumped in the dustbin of history just like Alchemistry, astrology, etc, etc.

  • lepidopteryx

    ProLifeActivistBorn59 : ProLifeActivistBorn59 :

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: Regarding the approach of the Orthodox Jewish religion to removing the boy from life support … This is the crux of the issue: The definition of the status of this boy in the eyes of Jewish law. This child has been diagnosed with a medical condition called brain-dead. This definition has been accepted by society as a definition of death for the last few decades but is a relatively new definition in the history of medicine.Prior to that point death was always defined as cessation of heartbeat. When this new definition came on the horizon rabbinic authorities analyzed the issue from a Jewish legal perspective. The rabbis approach this issue in a sophisticated, legal and medical fashion and there is currently a debate as to whether brain death is considered legal death in the eyes of Jewish law.Both opinions are respected opinions in the Jewish Orthodox tradition. There are rabbis as the rabbi of this particular family who maintain that as long as there is a heartbeat, even if the child is sustained by artificial breathing, that child is legally alive and should be accorded the rights of any living human being.This is a mainstream position. There is also another mainstream position that accepts brain death as legal death and would consider such a case as constituting legal death.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: The statement that if God is the decider of life and death, how do we play a role in this process … is an important theological concept and exactly on point. Medicine has a physiological definition as to when they believe death has occurred. Jewish law believes that the definition of death is not exclusively a medical one but is also a theological one and should be decided in the theological or religious arena. The two obviously work together to some extent but the final arbiter is the religious determination.Edward Reichman: This question states that the child has no chance of recovery. The question assumes that there is a notion of quality of life while in general in our society quality of life plays a role in end of life decision-making and it is acceptable in many circumstances to withhold or withdraw medical care to patients which will lead directly to their death. Jewish law does not countenance such actions.Firstly, we have a different notion of quality of life not based on consciousness or productivity. We believe in the sanctity of human life in all cases. To remove care from a patient considered alive in the eyes of Jewish law that would lead to the patient’s immediate demise would be tantamount to homicide in the Jewish tradition.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: Allow me to clarify that this is not an uncertainty in Jewish law. It is a matter of genuine debate. The family’s rabbinic authority espouses the position that death does not occur until the heart has stopped beating. This is the legal decision that has been rendered from a Jewish perspective in this case. It is not an uncertainty.It is absolutely not motivated by the family’s desire to “hang on to the child” for a longer period of time. This dimension is not a factor in the rabbinic decision.The grief involved for the family which we perhaps don’t focus on sufficiently is surely immeasurable. But again, this is not a factor in the religious determination as to whether this boy is alive in the eyes of Jewish law.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: The notion of using scarce resources is not without merit. There are indeed extensive rabbinic discussions about how to use limited resources in society. One of the areas that merits resources is the preservation of human life. As according to the rabbinic decision in this case this child is alive in the eyes of Jewish law it is deserving of these resources. Judaism has extraordinary respect for the sanctity of life and its preservation requires financial support as well.Practically it is rare in American hospitals that breathing machines would be scarce and that this particular breathing machine would be required to care for another individual. Debates about scarcity of resource find their expression more in a field like transplantation when few organs are available and decisions have to be made about to whom to allocate these organs.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: The issue here is respect for religious beliefs. Acceptance of religious beliefs is one of the strengths of our American society and we generally, with very few exceptions, will allow religious beliefs to be expressed as long as they do not harm other individuals. On the one side, we allow patients to withhold their own care and refuse life-saving blood transfusions even if it means they will die as a result. We should likewise respect that religious freedom for those who want their lives continued in the belief that this is their religious teaching._______________________Edward Reichman: In fact, this morning there was a news report that a young girl in England was granted the right to refuse life-saving heart transplantation. Of course, each case requires specific analysis and her refusal I do not believe was based on religious considerations but respect for the individual’s ability to make decisions about the preservation of cessation of their life is the common denominator.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: It is interesting that the heart has its own independent electrical system and in fact in antiquity scientists removed the heart from animals, placed them on a table and observed them continuing to beat for some time outside the body. However, the human being is more than a composite of its parts. The soul permeates the human body investing it with far more significance than just a body with a pump called a heart.Your phrase “meaningful definition of life” as mentioned before is a religious or theological definition, not a medical one.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: Let us take your comments to the logical extreme. There are thousands of patients across this country of all ages in a persistent vegetative state. Would it be ethically permissible based on financial considerations, especially in these economic times, to forthwith stop all care for such patients. Surely not. Our ethics and morality should always supersede financial concerns.You also address the historical argument that none of these treatments were available when Jewish law was formulated. While factually true, the ancient principles of Jewish law are applicable to any new and unforeseen circumstance. Penicillin was not invented in times of the Talmud. Does that mean that Jewish law is incapable of addressing antibiotics and their usage? Clearly these principles have stood the test of time and have been consistently and comprehensively applied in every generation to every imaginable new circumstance.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    Edward Reichman: I would like to clarify that Jewish law does not require all treatments at all times under all circumstances. While it is a matter of rabbinic debate there are many circumstances where it is permissible to refrain from treatments in Jewish law. Each case requires a separate analysis but, for example, withholding a respirator or withholding dialysis or DNR (do not resuscitate) orders may be acceptable in specific cases under rabbinic guidance.In this particular case the issue is that the disconnecting of the respirator will directly lead to the demise of the patient. Admittedly there are some who consider his current condition of brain death but this family’s rabbinic authority maintains that the child is still legally alive. Therefore, removal of the respirator would lead to the child’s demise. This aspect is objectionable in Jewish law.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    lepidopteryx:I only cut and paste Edward Reichman’s comments from another section of The Post. These are my comments on his perspectives:1. Rabbinic Judaism can have opposing ideas, because it is about the interpretation of one Jewish Rabbi against another. 2. If heartbeat is the sign of life, then abortion should be completely forbidden by all schools of Rabbinic Judaism. The heart of an unborn child continues to beat and grow if it is not stopped brutally with artificial force. A heart that is kept alive mechanically when the brain is completely dead, and the heart has no ability to function on its own is not about maintaining life, it is about propping up a really dead body.3. A hospital may have many machines in its store room, but only limited beds for patients and limited personnel to take care of those patients. So any brain dead patient kept in an ICU is taking up the place that could be given to a patient who has a real chance of survival. 4. Every institution is allowed to function in accordance with its mission and the ethics agreed upon by the hospital board, as long as it does not violate the law of the land. So if medical community has agreed, based on empirical evidence, that brain death is irreversible and any attempt to keep the heart and lung function is merely prolongation of death rather than life, then they have the right to follow it, even if it may offend the religious feelings one or the other party. Let’s say a Buddhist believes that the soul needs seven days after death to make its journey to the other realm and the body should not be disturbed in that time, it is not possible for hospitals to keep dead patients in their beds that long to please Buddhists.

  • lepidopteryx

    ProLifeActivist:4. Every institution is allowed to function in accordance with its mission and the ethics agreed upon by the hospital board, as long as it does not violate the law of the land. So if medical community has agreed, based on empirical evidence, that brain death is irreversible and any attempt to keep the heart and lung function is merely prolongation of death rather than life, then they have the right to follow it, even if it may offend the religious feelings one or the other party. Let’s say a Buddhist believes that the soul needs seven days after death to make its journey to the other realm and the body should not be disturbed in that time, it is not possible for hospitals to keep dead patients in their beds that long to please Buddhists.I agree completely.

  • ProLifeActivistBorn59

    My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of 12 year old Motl Brody, whose heart has stopped beating. What a relief it must be for his parents and his Rabbi that they did not have to discuss the situation in a court. What peace for the soul of the boy, who is with God forever, to be allowed to move on from a body that was trapped under a machine after his brain was completely dead. The grief of the family is fully understandable. No hospital nor medical personnel enjoys handing a patient to their parents or loved ones as a corpse. Every hospital, every medical personnel pride themselves in their ability to save lives, not to lose them. Motly’s doctors must be grieving too because their medical expertise was not sufficient to save his life.Here’s wishing the family God’s strength and courage for the long period of grieving that lies ahead. May they rest in the knowledge that their son is with God.

  • maxisi

    Shame on those physicians at Washington Childrens for violating the Hippocratic Oath and for failure to support a grieving family. I would never take my child there for fear of violation of parental input. Honestly, physician assisted euthanasia is equivalent to practicing veterinary medicine without a license.