The intersection of improved living standards and modern medicine’s ability to keep alive patients who might otherwise die has created halakhic dilemmas not envisioned by the early sages. These so-called “end-of-life” issues are controversial and heartbreaking at the same time, and include assisted suicide, withdrawl of medical care, and the sanctity of life. From a uniquely Jewish perspective, this book helps the reader make sense of these topics.
The volume is divided into discrete chapters, responsa, really, each on a specific end-of-life situation, many written by well-known Jewish medical ethicists and scholars. The best of these chapters masterfully weave medical, philosophical, and Talmudic opinions into a cogent response useful to the reader regardless of his/her religion or level of education. The reader can peruse all the chapters or obtain knowledge on a specific topic of interest.
Perhaps this book is most relevant for those families specifically dealing with endof- life issues, offering comfort, guidance, and Jewish thought for those most intimate, perplexing decisions. An example might be whether to withdraw medical care from a comatose patient who might survive but not be able to care for himself. As a physician who frequently confronts patients with these problems, I found that the opinions expressed here offer a unique perspective from which to initiate family discussions.
However, this collection of opinions stands on its own as a scholarly work, offering a wide range of voices and wellthough- out halakhic opinions on universal, front-burner topics. In lieu of specific Talmudic training, this volume can be the only resource necessary for dealing with some of these challenging clinical problems.