Orthodox Jewish Parents Fight Hospital to Prevent Termination of Life Support for Twelve-Year-Old Boy

thumb_scales_of_justiceThe Children’s National Medical Center in Washington is going to court to seek a court order to terminate life support for a 12-year-old boy in a case raising parental and religious rights. A ventilator and medications are currently keeping Moti Brody of Brooklyn, N.Y. alive but his Orthodox Jewish parents do not recognize brain death in their religion.

Brody was diagnosed with severe brain cancer and, after six months months in the hospital, shows no brain activity.

His parents, Eluzer and Miriam Brody, have retained counsel to force the hospital to continue to support their son. Their attorney, Jeffrey Zuckerman, stated: “Under Jewish law and their faith, there is no such thing as brain death. Their religious beliefs are entitled to respect.”

The hospital is complaining that keeping Brody alive is draining resources needed for other patients. It is a classic conflict in torts and constitutional law where the court must decide whether to overrule the wishes of parents or a spouse.

Usually courts will side with the hospital in such cases. Otherwise, a hospital will be forced to support care worth millions that can go on for many years. Notably, New York and New Jersey make exceptions to accommodate Orthodox Jews and other faiths on such matters. The District does not make such exceptions.

For the full story, click here.

12 thoughts on “Orthodox Jewish Parents Fight Hospital to Prevent Termination of Life Support for Twelve-Year-Old Boy

  1. This is a tough case for me to resolve. I understand the hospital’s position, but the parents wishes should be honored when it is related to a legitimate religious belief. I do not agree that the cost should override the parents issues, but maybe there is another facility that can take him in order to honor the parent’s beliefs and the hospital’s need to put its resources where it can help those who can be saved.

  2. rafflaw:

    I have no such qualms. In a case of irreversible disease resulting in brain death, the hospital should not be compelled to provide life sustaining measures at no charge. If the parents are so inclined, they should bear the cost themselves. It is far too easy to insist on principle when someone else carries the burden of payment or fulfillment. Maybe Bush and his neocon friends should have learned that rule 8 years ago.

  3. I have a question. Do situations like this contribute to higher health costs to everyone, insured or not? I would think it would affect those that are insured, followed by the uninsured

    I think it would be hard to lose a child, especially such a young one. But I think that in this case, the parents are being selfish and need to let their child go.

  4. […] There is a tragic article in today’s Washington Post about a young hasidic boy who was stricken with brain cancer. He is currently being kept alive with a ventilator and drugs. The hospital wants to disconnect the ventilator, because in their opinion the boy is already dead, and in the opinion of the parents, the boy is still alive. The case is now in the courts. Some discussion of the different opinions regarding the time of death in Judaism can be found here, here, and here (PDF). For some legal commentary see here. […]

  5. I’ve never understood this argument. There were no life support machines when these moral codes were written so they shouldn’t factor into decisions today. If the child lives off life support, that is God’s will. If the child dies off life support, that is God’s will.

    If the child would die off life support and the parents keep him on it anyway, that’s defying God’s will. I find that a poor basis for a religious argument.

    N.B., I’m not trying to be flip, and I’m certainly not arguing against using modern medicine when there’s a realistic chance of improvement. But you can’t “pick and choose” your beliefs according to what’s convenient at the time. If you want to live by the orthodox law, accept the consequences.

  6. Butters:

    This is the precise problem of applying First Century moral codes to the modern world. We are better served by developing our own solutions than relying on stock answers from ancient texts that could not have possibly anticipated the issues that technology imposes upon morality.

  7. mespo:

    The reason I posted the link was to help you better understand what these people grapple with. I was hoping that you’d see that, much like the common law, Judaism applies accepted principles and doctrines to new situations. Quibble all you want with these principles, but they are arrived at induction from the Talmud and other authoritative primary sources and are adapted to new situations. So when you wrote that these were “stock answers” I wasn’t exactly sure what you meant: Are the moral assumptions the Talmud makes outmoded and incapable of serving as frameworks from which to evaluate contemporary modern issues (and it is these given assumptions that you call “stock answers”), or do you think that Judaism has a cookbook that provides magical answers for every situation–nothing needs to be reworked to fit new realities? I think you meant the former and you’re entitled to your opinion. I just want you to appreciate that many modern situations have analogues in the Talmud where absolute moral pronouncements were made. These pronouncements aren’t just lifted and applied blindly to modern situations; there is a deliberative process that takes into account new realities.

    My point was that this isn’t closed-minded resistance to modernity. These people believe for whatever reason they do. Their religion takes a position on the metaphysical reality of when one is considered dead. To say that their Fifth Century morality did not anticipate the reality of a brain-dead person on life support does not disturb this metaphysical determination.

  8. This decision shouldn’t be made by the hospital. It is wrong for them to make major familily decisions like this.

    Whenever a parent with good insurance willing to pay, the hospital fights to keep someone on life support. I honestly believe it is all about the money for hospitals.

  9. I adamantly disagree.

    I’m sorry, these parents are shrinking behind their supposed religious beliefs.

    They need to step up and do what’s best for their child.

    Keeping him artificially sustained on life-support, with no chance of recovery, ain’t it – no matter what it costs.

  10. As a jewish mother- the flippant answers regarding just letting go -is just that -flippant
    BEsides the codes on living and dying- There are thousands of years of scholarly debate on the meaning and purpose of life in any religion. And the purpose of suffering. Although our codes by no means prolong suffering- there is a difference in passively allowing a person to pass on and actively pulling the plug- We beleive even one minute of life less constitutes murder and the doctors that do this are murderers. If life stops at death- than what you promote makes sense- its just an animal body and it no longer functions so we bury it or destroy it. But if we question where we came from and beleive our choices and experiences make a difference in the major scheme of the world- and that all minutae will be evaluated and judged at the end of this world as we pass on to the next- then the context is very different
    To not review any of the many thousands of years before you – to understand what is life its purpose its meaning its conclusion anf returning for completeion-In any religioun-
    explains how people are flippant about life and death- You beleive what you see is what you get- And Yet we all know through various experiences, reviews, art literature there is much much more going on than what we see
    take the opportunity- look at the arguments and debates between scholars all the world over before concluding this is it.
    If you make the economy argument- yes the hospital loses money, but then why prolong suffering in those trying to commit suicide- Obviously their life is hard and why not end it- Why do we prevent that, and then if we do that the elderly also have enourmous sadness as their lives here conclude- why bother with them either as it definitely draining the economy and then of course any child born prematurely with deafness with cleft palate they all drain the economy as well
    Where does that stop- The truth is it doesnt as we all can see in Nazi Germany – They didnt start with mass concentration camps – They started with all those living in institutions -for any reason
    That ended with the destruction of Europe and 76 million people dead- We have that history – Why do we always forget -refuse to learn from our mistakes and try the same techniques again

  11. If the person is dead by brain death criteria, he is not being kept alive. We need to be very careful in our words and our meanings.

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