Author Archives: Richard Weiss

Symposium on the Ethics of Brain Death and Organ Donation: IX

Rabbi Richard Weiss, MD / The determination of death is one of the most challenging bioethics issues of the past several decades. Various aspects of brain death as the definitive determinant and definition of death have been extensively and intensely discussed and debated in a wide spectrum of literature. Recognizing this point—that Judaism is not unique in its continued deliberations regarding this matter—can be very useful for all who are actively engaged in analyzing the halachic view of brain death. One citation, for example, which presents a wide variety of opinions in the secular, medical and general philosophical arena, is an article by David DeGrazia in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entitled “The Definition of Death”, published October, 2007. One can readily appreciate the ongoing debate that extends far beyond the Jewish community. It is true that brain death has been legally accepted in almost all of the fifty United States, with some states accommodating religious or moral objections. This fact, however, has not inhibited continued healthy discussions on the matter. Similarly, continued healthy discussions in the halakhic world should be encouraged.

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