Doctors at Schneider Hospital Refuse to Treat Brain-Dead Girl


litzman-smallDeputy Health Minister MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman has taken up the cause of a young girl classified as brain dead at Schneider Children’s Hospital, where doctors are refusing to continue providing medical treatment, though her heart still beats regularly.

The staff members’ intransigence stands in stark contrast to the law, which obligates physicians to notify family members regarding the patient’s condition, and as long as the heart continues to beat they are required to consider the patient fully alive and honor the family’s wishes.

Rabbi Litzman paid several visits to the medical center to clarify to the hospital administration and staff the Health Ministry’s stance on the issue – which conforms with the halacha – that a patient can be pronounced dead only when the heart stops beating.

The standoff resulted in a flurry of media reports last week, with medical establishment figures clamoring to support the doctors at Schneider.

Finance Ministry Chairman MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni contacted Otniel Schneller, who legislated the law that defines the point of death, and objected to his failure to enter the public debate and his disregard for the law he himself sponsored.

“During the course of the legislative debates you led to determine the time of death, several Knesset members claimed as long as the heart is beating the person is not dead,” wrote Rabbi Gafni. “And there have been cases where a patient whose brain stopped functioning later recuperated. Following the debates it has been determined by law that if the patient’s heart is beating, doctors must continue administering treatment in accordance with the family’s wishes.

“A short time ago doctors came out against Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who presented them with this paragraph of the law, which must be carried out. To my great surprise, you too joined the media in this instigation. I waited to hear you refute [these reports], but unfortunately such a refutation has yet to arrive.”

In conclusion Rabbi Gafni writes, “Like the rest of us, you are entitled to state your personal opinion, but after you said before a Knesset plenum at the time the law was passed that you presented it in its entirety, and in the first public debate you turn your back on it, this is unethical, immoral and above all incorrect.”

Schneider Children’s Hospital told Yated Ne’eman, “Due to patient confidentially we are unable to provide details regarding this case. In principle, we of course always try to be attentive to the needs and wishes of our patients’ families, while upholding the law.”

 {Yechiel Sever-Deaih veDibur/ Newscenter}