Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Calev Ben-David Doesn't Get It

Calev Ben-David demonstrates that he doesn't understand the true Jewish postition regarding Terri Schavio in his article Snap Judgment: The Jewish right to die:
This is not to argue for any kind of "Jewish" position regarding the Schiavo affair, even if she herself were Jewish. Quite the opposite: Since the whole question of what Terri Schiavo's own desires were (or are) regarding her current condition is still in dispute, it is impossible to draw any general conclusions from this tangled and heart-wrenching case.

Despite that, Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the national Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel, publicly called on Michael Schiavo last week to "recognize that what a court may consider legal can still constitute a grave violation of a higher law," and asked him to "please allow your wife to continue to live... None of us can claim to know what constitutes a meaningful existence, and all of us have a responsibility to preserve even severely compromised human life."

Whatever Shafran or Agudath Israel's motivation for making such a statement, it's entirely inappropriate in this context. Of course individual Jews, be it in America, Israel or elsewhere, are perfectly free to decide for themselves, without reference to Jewish or any other religious sources, their own position regarding passive euthanasia. But partisan voices on either side of this debate have no right to distort traditional Jewish teachings on this subject in order to argue their side of this matter.

Now that we've read Ben-David's uninformed journalist's rant, let's read a true scholarly opinion from Dr. Daniel Eisenberg:

Let us take the example of Terri Schiavo. She is not brain dead nor is she terminally ill. She is brain damaged and remains in what appears to be a persistent vegetative state. All of her bodily functions are essentially normal, but she lacks the ability to "meaningfully" interact with the outside world (although her parents claim that she does minimally respond to their presence and to outside stimuli).

Her impairment is cognitive and Judaism does not recognize any less of a right to treatment for one cognitively impaired than one mentally astute.

It is a denial of the Jewish ideal of the fundamental value of life that drives the forces that wish to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. While Judaism does recognize quality of life in certain circumstances (such as the incurable terminally ill patient in intractable pain mentioned above), the Torah does not sanction euthanasia in any situation. To remove the feeding tube from a patient whose only impairment is cognitive is simply murder.

We must ask ourselves when we view images of cognitively impaired patients such as Terri Schiavo whether the pain that we feel is Terri's or whether it is our own. While we may suffer watching movies of the severely brain damaged, it is our own thoughts of the horror of a life without cognition that drives us to project that pain onto the victim who may not be suffering at all.

Calev Ben-David should take his own advice with regards to "distorting traditional Jewish teachings on this subject."

Update: Yitzchok Adlerstein at Cross-Currents weighs in on "Rabbi" Calev's remarks:
(Agudah called it correctly, and issued a public appeal to Michael Schaivo to spare his wife’s life. For this, they have been accused of distorting “traditional Jewish teaching” by the world’s foremost authority on Jewish Law – the Jerusalem Post.)

1 comment:

Hugh said...

I applaud your enlightened stand on the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case from the standpoint of the Jewish heritage of spiritual law. Thank you.

The following is what I posted in my blog Sir Real: :

Friday 25 March 2005

I am on strike.

As long as the majority of the people in this country think a disabled woman should be killed, I owe them nothing.

I write this, however, for anyone in the world with Internet access who happens to find it and choose to consider it. So I know some of you reading this agree with me that it is utterly barbaric for the lawmakers (and the courts, who unfortunately are more or less the slaves of the lawmakers) to deny Terri her basic human rights, in fact, to quite consciously and deliberately kill her, for that is the only way their acts or non-acts can be described.

If those of you who disagree with me leave this group, I will not miss you. I would prefer to get the bad apples out of the barrel.

I gave a link yesterday to the report of a doctor who examined Terri about two years ago and made videotapes of her interacting with her parents and trying to sing to music while sitting in a chair. This is not an unconscious woman.

Another doctor just yesterday gave his opinion in court that Terri is partially conscious and not "vegetative."

On the front page of the Internet Washington Post today, there is a big photo of a lobster, with a story about how some people bought it in order to save it from death by boiling.

Next to it is the lead article about the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the pleas of Terri's family. ( Not only her parents but her brother and sister are campaigning for her reprieve from execution. Her closest blood relatives want her to live, and the lawmakers and courts say "Let her die." So much for "family values.")

This front page of the second-most honored newspaper in the country shows clearly that people care more about lobsters than disabled human beings.

Where is someone in the "liberal establishment media" who will take up Terri's cause? So far I am not aware of one. (Please let me know if you know of someone.)

As most of you know, I am a liberal, but what is "liberal" about condemning a helpless woman to death? To be liberal implies the generosity of caring for the helpless.

If Terri were suffering, probably her family itself, and all the doctors who have come out in favor of her continued feeding, would change their minds. Those who see her every day know that she is not suffering. It was reported by the doctor who examined her earlier in March that she actually laughed at some jokes told in her presence. She is obviously conscious and has the capacity to enjoy life.

But the poor lobster! It is he who gets our concern.

(Actually I am for animal rights also, but would assume that human beings have at least as many rights, or did I miss something somewhere?)

I am upset that Terri's case is considered a political issue and that it has divided along party lines. I have considered myself a Democrat since the first Presidential election I voted in, and am registered as such, but am about to change my affiliation, probably not to Republican but to Independent. Or, perhaps, I should stay in "the party" to try to change it. Actually about half (47 as opposed to 53) of the House Democrats who voted on the issue (only about half voted) came down on Terri's side. Yet the "liberal establishment" is on a campaign to kill Terri. Something is seriously wrong.

Part of what is wrong is what looks to be deliberate misinformation. ABC, CNN, and other major media outlets, who literally brainwash the American people because most depend on them utterly for their information, are saying consistently that Terri is unconscious and has no cognitive functions. How does someone laugh at a joke if he or she has no cognitive functions? The claim is patently absurd. If her cognitive functions are impaired, how could we know that for sure unless we could "be" her or enter into her consciousness? Does she have fewer cognitive functions than a lobster? And if her functions are impaired, that is not the same as saying she has none or is unconscious. Of course, these same media utterly ignore the doctors, including neurosurgeons, who say that Terri is partly conscious. They have set themselves up as judge and jury of which doctors to believe, and have decided that Terri must die. The public, being naive and unable to spend as much time as some of us can researching the matter, simply believe this media distortion (I would say outright lie, but it may be an unconscious lie, for the media are on some matters more unconscious than Terri).

A Clinton appointee to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was one of the two good justices who dissented and came out on Terri's side, saying that he saw "no harm" in her continued feeding until the issue is settled. One voice of reason, conscience, and common sense. The fact that he was a Clinton appointee suggests that this case does, and ought to, split not along party lines but along the lines of something deeper.

Most immediately, I blame the Senate of the state of Florida for Terri's plight, for they had a chance within the last few days to pass a law that would have saved her. It failed, 21 to 18. The "liberal" media including the New York Times and Washington Post have not very prominently, if at all, displayed how this vote split along party lines, probably because they are afraid that the Democrats will be pegged by the public as the Deathocrats. Their fear is well-grounded. Terri's case may well lose the Democrats the election of 2006, and perhaps rightly so.

Yet nearly half of Democrats support Terri's cause, though some of them in a lukewarm manner.

I could go on but I believe I have said enough. Either you get it or you don't.

And if you can't get it on Good Friday, the day a good man was tortured to death by the government, it is unlikely you will ever get it.

Cosmic Piper

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