The Jewish Schaivo Dilemma
The Washington Post reported today on a controversial circumstance regarding an Orthodox Jewish boy on life support. The boy, Motl Brody, has an aggressive brain tumor and currently has no brain activity—he cannot breathe on his own. His family’s lawyers, however, sued to contend that Jewish law and the Jewish definition of death does not recognize brain death.
The Post says:
In court papers, the hospital says treating him is “offensive to good medical ethics” because, unlike the highly publicized cases of Terri Schiavo and Karen Ann Quinlan, the boy has no brain activity…
Doctors at Children’s [National Medical Center] performed various tests on Motl to see whether that structure is working.
The tests included briefly removing the boy from the ventilator. Normally, the brainstem stimulates breathing, even if the efforts are inadequate, as carbon dioxide builds up in the blood. But according to papers filed by the hospital in Superior Court, the child made no respiratory efforts even when his carbon dioxide was double the normal concentration.
Doctors are also giving the boy intravenous drugs to keep up his blood pressure, action that is also controlled by unconscious, primitive parts of the brain…
Children’s wants the court to uphold its position that it can disconnect the equipment, even over the parents’ objections, because the boy’s brain does not show any more signs of activity. Under D.C. law, doctors can declare patients dead if there is no brain activity.
The hospital said it was unable to find another medical facility that would take the boy.
Still, some Jewish activists, like those at Yeshiva World, are working to keep Brody alive. Williamsburg community activist Isaac Abraham pleads:
The efforts by Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, to remove a 12-year-old New York boy, Motl Brody, from life support are alarming and frightening. The parents object on perfectly legitimate religious grounds, and it is unthinkable that a hospital in the nation’s capital can react in such disrespectful and cold-blooded manner….
I also call on all donors and supporters of National Children’s Medical Center to voice their outrage, and to make it known to the hospital’s administration, at the highest possible levels, and in the strongest possible terms, that their actions will have consequences, including forfeiture of support, both financial as well as otherwise.
UPDATE 11/17: Motl Brody has passed away.