Pharyngula

A tragic tale, made worse by dogma

Twelve year old Motl Brody has died. A tumor destroyed his brain, and the consequences are unambiguous.

Unlike Terri Schiavo or Karen Ann Quinlan, who became the subjects of right-to-die battles when they suffered brain damage and became unconscious, Motl’s condition has deteriorated beyond a persistent vegetative state, his physicians say. His brain has died entirely, according to an affidavit filed by one of his doctors.

His eyes are fixed and dilated. His body neither moves nor responds to stimulation. His brain stem shows no electrical function, and his brain tissue has begun to decompose.

This is sad, but final…except for one little problem. The boy’s family belong to a sect of Hasidic Jews who cling to an archaic belief that life is determined by the presence of a beating heart, and this particular body is hooked up to drugs and machines that keep the tissue flailing away futilely, and so the parents are taking the hospital to court to keep prodding the corpse into this semblance of life.

There’s another weird twist to the story. The parents are not in denial. They know there is no hope at this point. They are sticking to their insistence that the hospital must tie up their facilities in this useless endeavor entirely because they must dogmatically follow their religion’s laws.

Jeffrey I. Zuckerman, the attorney for Motl’s parents, says they have been “utterly shattered” by the hospital’s actions.

He stressed that the family’s demand for continued life support was based on their obligations under religious law, not an unrealistic hope that their boy will recover.

In other words, they know their religious beliefs are invalid, but they’re going to abide by them, and damn the pain and grief and expense and waste. It’s zombie religion.

Comments

  1. #1 Luke
    November 11, 2008

    Heartbreaking.

  2. #2 the Rev Jerry Gloryhole
    November 11, 2008

    If only, Luke.

  3. #3 chris
    November 11, 2008

    Wouldn’t they have to pay for this out of their own funds? Surely insurance or any indigent fund wouldn’t cover it. If that’s so, it shouldn’t last long.

  4. #4 Chris Davis
    November 11, 2008

    Hmm. Seems brain-damage runs in the family.

  5. #5 Oolon Colluphid
    November 11, 2008

    A sad case, but you have to understand the viewpoint of the family: If they pull the plug on their son, he may be posthumously baptized by Mormons.

  6. #6 Alverant
    November 11, 2008

    This comes from the day when it was thought the soul (or whatever you wish to call the force that animates the human body) was in the heart and not the brain. If they would adjust their beliefs to fit into science, this could have been avoided. RIP little boy, you have already died and your parents are keeping your body in a parody of life.

  7. #7 Luke
    November 11, 2008

    Motl Brody has a (i)mortl body.

  8. #8 Liberal Atheist
    November 11, 2008

    Zombie religion indeed, in more ways than one. When are we finally going to say enough is enough, that these primitive and sometimes barbaric customs and religions have no place in an enlightened civilisation?

    We can go to the Moon, we build skyscrapers hundreds of metres tall, we can communicate instantly across the planet, we can transplant organs and we know the age of the universe… and yet there are millions of people who prefer ancient myths and fantasy. Why?

  9. #9 Fishnchimps
    November 11, 2008

    this proves that religious folk are as much prisoners of their beliefs as they are followers

  10. #10 Martin
    November 11, 2008

    Wow. And I thought Christianity was all about worshiping death!

  11. #11 Michelle
    November 11, 2008

    And here I thought the religious law implied that the heart must sustain ON ITS OWN and not with drugs and machines that did not exist in Abraham’s time?

    Remove the machines, which were created by EVIL SCIENCE, and the heartbeat will go away pretty fast like it should.

  12. #12 Nerd of Redhead
    November 11, 2008

    I too, am concerned as to who is paying the bills. I think any one other than the family and right to life groups paying the bills should not be allowed. If they won’t pay, pull the plug. Their religion is irrelevant to required any third party to pay the bills.

  13. #13 terrylong
    November 11, 2008

    This is as good a metaphor for all of religion as Mike Huckabee pretending to talk to god on a phone that’s connected to nothing.

  14. #14 Raphael
    November 11, 2008

    That’s absolutely ridiculous, and disgusting.

    If his heart wouldn’t beat without medical support, then there’s the long and short of it right there.

    I’m fairly sure that when the bible was written, the biggest medical advance was [maybe] bandaging a wound. Therefore, the advances we have today should never, ever be a consideration in something like this.

    If they want to determine whether or not their son is truly ‘dead’ by what they believe, fine. But there shouldn’t be a condition attached to it factored in by modern advances: “The presence of life is indicated by a beating heart.. and whatever means necessary to keep it beating”

  15. #15 SC
    November 11, 2008

    Wow. And I thought Christianity was all about worshiping death!

    Christianity?

  16. #16 christopher
    November 11, 2008

    You can’t drag modern medicine into ancient religious beliefs. If the kid was given the same treatment that he would have been when those laws were placed down, then he’d be dead. That should satisfy them. At least they aren’t in denial about it, but it makes it no less stupid.

  17. #17 Pete Rooke
    November 11, 2008

    It’s called principle, in this case it happens to be misguided because the mental manifests itself in this world through the brain.

  18. #18 Lowell
    November 11, 2008

    What an awful story. Just so you know which court is going to make this decision, the federal court in D.C. remanded the case to the D.C. Superior Court on November 5, the day after the parents filed the federal suit.

    The D.C. Superior Court held a hearing Monday, but it put the matter over to Thursday, when the parents and the hospital’s experts are expected to testify: http://medicalfutility.blogspot.com/2008/11/cnmc-v-brody-hearing-continued-to.html

  19. #19 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    You can’t drag modern medicine into ancient religious beliefs. If the kid was given the same treatment that he would have been when those laws were placed down, then he’d be dead. That should satisfy them. At least they aren’t in denial about it, but it makes it no less stupid.

    Exactly. That’s why Christian Scientists are the only religious group who actually have ‘real’ faith in their god. Of course, it means a lot of them die, but they probably think that’s their fault anyway.

  20. #20 Lowell
    November 11, 2008

    . . . must . . . fight . . urge . . to . . debate . . dualism . . with . . Pastor Pete . . . .

  21. #21 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    With the Jewish diaspora and the compulsion to cling to tradition and faith, it’s easy for many modern jews to compartmentalize reason and faith.
    My discussions with Catholics about whether priests should marry was rivaled by the discussions with jewish friends on the rationality of kosher laws. It’s like climbing into a bag with a semi-tame alley cat and then poking it with a stick.

    At least the child isn’t aware, and it’s not as if his “soul” must be released from his body. (suck on THAT you believers in Cartesian DUELISM). Sad, sad case.

    My problem with the Schiavo case was this: when is feeding an extraordinary circumstance? Dialysis -sure, heart/lung machine – yep, but food and water do not constitute extraordinary life saving measures. They are basic measures to sustain life. Terri Schiavo had no hope for recovery but I still think that starving her was unethical.

  22. #22 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Wow, Lowell:
    You read my mind.

  23. #23 TSC
    November 11, 2008

    Oy stupid.

  24. #24 Bluegrass Geek
    November 11, 2008

    Posted by: SC
    Christianity?

    Yes, Christianity. The religion whose entire existence is due to the mythical death and resurrection of its founding member, and whose entire focus is on the rewards one will receive after death.

  25. #25 kamaka
    November 11, 2008

    The parents are “utterly shattered” at the hospital’s actions

    They insist on this bizarre shit, then play victim when someone balks…typical religious nonsense

  26. #26 hubris hurts
    November 11, 2008

    Bluegrass Geek @24 – I think that SC was trying to point out to you that the members of the family in this story are Hasidic Jews, not Christians.

  27. #27 Jello
    November 11, 2008

    Medicine is for the living, not the dead. The hospital should have been well within its rights to yank the cord on the grounds that the equiptment is better used by someone who isn’t a corpse, religious beliefs or not.

  28. #28 Marc Abian
    November 11, 2008

    4.40 PM. Heartbreaking

    4.42 PM. If only, Luke.

    Just 2 Minutes.

  29. #29 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    Yes, Christianity. The religion whose entire existence is due to the mythical death and resurrection of its founding member, and whose entire focus is on the rewards one will receive after death.

    I think SC was questioning why you brought it up, since the family involved are Jewish. I’m guessing that you didn’t, and that you were effectively saying ‘…and I thought Christianity was all about worshipping death!’ rather than ‘…and I thought Christianity was about worshipping death.’

  30. #30 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Um, you did read the part about “the boy’s family belong to a sect of Hasidic Jews.”

  31. #31 CalGeorge
    November 11, 2008

    “Motl Brody of Brooklyn was pronounced dead…”

    Brain dead = dead. Time to ship him to the morgue.

  32. #32 NoAstronomer
    November 11, 2008

    Continuing kamaka’s thought: The parents are utterly shattered at the hospitals action … but “Motl’s mother and father, Eluzer and Miriam Brody, haven’t been to the hospital since July.”

    Sorry, they lost my respect right there.

  33. #33 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    One assumes they have insurance; surely the insurance company isn’t going to keep paying the bills?

  34. #34 Geoff
    November 11, 2008

    I lived close to real Hasidic jews and they wouldn’t call an ambulance if one of them had a heart attack on their sabbath. Presumably these shouldn’t countenance treatment on one day each week. These parents sound like they are in it for the trouble they can cause.

  35. #35 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Pet Rooke:
    That “ghost in the machine” crap won’t fly here. Show me exactly where and how this “soul” interfaces with the brain.

  36. #36 JRobel
    November 11, 2008

    I once had this explained to me by a friend who was a practicing Jew and since have had a few others confirm it with me.

    All that the Jewish faith actually requires is the dogma. It doesn’t matter (according to their religious customs) whether or not you actually believe, so long as you follow the rules.

    This means you will often get practicing Jews who, possibly even going so far as to keep kosher, are still capable of knowing and understanding that God doesn’t actually exist, but they’ll still act like he does.

    Lots of Jewish religious stories (many from the Talmud) and their practices reflect this as well. Consider all the stories of rabbi’s arguing with God over the technicalities of his law, an example:

    It is the tale of another oven that needed to be declared kosher. This oven was a new invention created by a certain man named Achnai. Achnai brought his new oven to the rabbinical court at the house of study for them to give his contraption their imprimatur and deem it appropriate for Jewish use. With the exception of Rabbi Eliezer, every sage at the house of study declared that the oven was un-kosher. Rabbi Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument to try and convince the other sages that the oven was kosher, but none of his colleagues was convinced. Rabbi Eliezer was getting frustrated, and he shouted at them: “If Achnai’s oven is in fact kosher, as I say it is, then let this carob tree prove it!” And the carob tree flew out of the ground and landed a hundred cubits away. Unimpressed, the other sages retorted: “No proof can be brought from a carob tree.” Again Rabbi Eliezer implored them: “If the oven is kosher, then let the stream of water prove it.” And the stream of water flowed backwards. “No proof can be brought from a stream of water,” the rabbis rejoined. More frustrated than ever, Rabbi Eliezer cried out: “If the oven is kosher, as I say it is, let the walls of this house of study prove it!” And the walls began to fall inward. But Rabbi Joshua rebuked the collapsing walls saying: “When scholars are engaged in a disagreement over a point of Jewish law, what right do you have to interfere?” And the walls did not fall in honor of Rabbi Joshua, nor did they resume their upright position in honor of Rabbi Eliezer. Again Rabbi Eliezer said to the sages, “If the law agrees with me regarding the fact that Achnai’s oven is kosher, then let it be proved by heaven.” And a heavenly voice cried out: “Why do you rabbis argue with Eliezer? He’s always right in his interpretation of the law!” But Rabbi Joshua arose and exclaimed to the sky: “It is not in Heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12). One must follow the majority!” At that moment, the sages say, God laughed, saying “My children have defeated me! My children have overruled me!” (So that oven remained technically un-kosher. You win some, and you lose some).

    Not that it can be counted as an apology for these parents. Just pointing out that the absurdity of Judaism is particularly full of cognitive dissonance.

  37. #37 John Morales
    November 11, 2008

    It’s perverse – it seems clear the parents, in effect, are denying those medical facilities to those who can be helped.

    NoAstronomer, reading further:

    In addition to the emotional issues involving life and death, a dispute has emerged over when the parents last visited Motl.
    In court yesterday, Rosenau said that according to hospital records, the parents have not visited the boy since late July.
    “That is an outright lie,” Zuckerman [parents' lawyer] said after the hearing.
    Although the parents, Eluzer and Miriam Brody, have not been at the hospital in the past two weeks, Zuckerman said, they were there more recently than July. He said he did not know exactly when they made their last visit.
    “This hospital wants to kill him instead of treat him,” Zuckerman said. He said the entire experience has been “torture” for the boy’s parents.

  38. #38 Lowell
    November 11, 2008

    You read my mind.

    No good could possibly come from it.

  39. #39 H.H.
    November 11, 2008

    Yeah, Wowbagger gets it. The comment was like “Wow, and I thought Christians were bad!” in comparison to this story on Hasidic Jews. Seemed obvious to me.

  40. #40 Jules
    November 11, 2008

    I just don’t understand. “God’s will” would seem to be that the child passes away. Would it not be insulting to God to keep plugging your child into machines?

    Of course, I can sit here and say I’ll never do this to my own child. But if my child were to have a horrible accident or illness, I cannot speak as to how I would truly react. I might lose my mind and my judgment. I’d be a wreck if something happened to my child. It would be up to the rest of my family to calm me as a mother and provide a rational voice.

  41. #41 SC
    November 11, 2008

    Wowbagger,

    I considered that, which is why I phrased it as a question. But then I don’t really get it, since I don’t see this as “worshipping death” in any sort of relevant sense.

  42. #42 Emmet Caulfield
    November 11, 2008

    “This hospital wants to kill him instead of treat him,” Zuckerman said.

    I wonder what treatment protocol Zuckerman expects for “rotting dead brain”. I suggest the classic “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.

  43. #43 castletonsnob
    November 11, 2008

    It’s called principle, in this case it happens to be misguided because the mental manifests itself in this world through the brain.

    A perfect example of how one can string words together and not make any sense whatsoever.

  44. #44 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    SC,

    I was giving Martin the benefit of the doubt; I agree it still doesn’t make that much sense – unless you consider ‘keeping a brain-dead human alive’ to be worshipping it – but I would hate to think someone wouldn’t have picked up on the key phrase in the article, ‘Hasidic Jews’, before commenting on it.

  45. #45 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    The comment was like “Wow, and I thought Christians were bad!” in comparison to this story on Hasidic Jews. Seemed obvious to me.

    I admit I missed it, even though it came from SC.

    That said:
    I don’t think any religion is comparatively better or worse than any other, though. After the “they really believe the cracker actually Jesus and you should die and suffer the torments of hell” people and the “we are evangelicals who let our daughter die of diabetes because it was the Lord’s will” and the Islamic “let’s stone a 13 year old rape victim”, how can you say one is more irrational than the next?

  46. #46 amphiox
    November 11, 2008

    Let these parents buy their own ventilator, learn how to use it, along with how and when to administer all the appropriate medications, and buy them, set it all up in their home, and take their boy home. (Let their faith community donate the necessary funds and expertise if they so desire)

  47. #47 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Luke is too clever by half. This man needs a rimshot.

  48. #48 SC
    November 11, 2008

    I admit I missed it, even though it came from SC.

    Thanks for the compliment that I think is in there, but what is going on this week? That didn’t come from me. Didn’t. Not me. All I did was question whether Martin had read the post thoroughly enough.

  49. #49 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Amphiox:
    There you go again being reasonable.

  50. #50 Mooselet
    November 11, 2008

    “This hospital wants to kill him instead of treat him,” Zuckerman said.

    I’m afraid the tumor already did that, not the hospital. I wonder what the boy’s code status is – that is when he eventually goes into cardiac arrest despite the intervention he is currently receiving will the staff be required to call a code and try to resuscitate him? Is there a Do Not Resuscitate order? Or will the staff be required to waste time attempting to re-establish a heart beat in order to comply with the religious beliefs of these parents who haven’t been at the bedside in at least two weeks, possibly as long as several months.

  51. #51 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    E.V. wrote:

    I don’t think any religion is comparatively better or worse than any other, though. After the “they really believe the cracker actually Jesus and you should die and suffer the torments of hell” people and the “we are evangelicals who let our daughter die of diabetes because it was the Lord’s will” and the Islamic “let’s stone a 13 year old rape victim”, how can you say one is more irrational than the next?

    I suppose you could say that one religion is irrational about more things than another. We could draw up some lists and see which has the greatest number of wacky-woo beliefs.

  52. #52 Rabbi Mordechai
    November 11, 2008

    Number 35, you say “I lived close to real Hasidic jews and they wouldn’t call an ambulance if one of them had a heart attack on their sabbath.” I am an orthodox Rabbi and I can tell you it is a standard rule in Jewish law that you break the sabbath to save a life. There are even orthodox volunteer EMTs in Orthodox Areas. So with respect something doesn’t add up, which messes up the rest of your point. And before you say “there may be different sects”, everyone holds this view that human life takes precedence.
    Judaism is LIFE AFFIRMING
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pikuach_nefesh#Shabbat_and_holidays

  53. #53 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    It was a compliment and oops! as I check back, it was Martin who said, “Wow. And I thought Christianity was all about worshiping death!” and has since explained the remark. Nevermind… carry on!

  54. #54 JStein
    November 11, 2008

    This is pretty ridiculous. I talked about it yesterday, but the truth is, it’s an expensive way of postponing mourning and, like all religion, it distances the family from reality.

  55. #55 spgreenlaw
    November 11, 2008

    I always try to give those who are in mourning, especially over the loss of a child, a lot of room to say illogical things and make ridiculous requests. If they are going to pay for the life support I don’t have a problem with it; but if they expect the insurance company or the hospital to cover the cost, than that’s absurd.

    My biggest beef is with their religion. Their minds have been taken over by a parasite that is now interfering with their ability to properly grieve.

  56. #56 Donnie B.
    November 11, 2008

    Just wondering… why does life require affirmation?

  57. #57 pharynguphat
    November 11, 2008

    I was fully prepared to join my voice to those suggesting that it would be in Motl’s best interests to pull the plug. . .but then YOU chimed in.

    So now I say, “KEEP HIM VENTILATED TILL 2050! SEND THE BILL TO LITTLE PAUL MYERS!!!!”

  58. #58 Frasque
    November 11, 2008

    His brain is DECOMPOSING? And they still won’t let the poor little kid die peacefully? Absolute insanity, and no excuse for it.

  59. #59 Robert W
    November 11, 2008

    Sad sad state of affairs. Just goes to show how religion turns people into sheep.

  60. #60 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    Religion: prolonging people’s misery since…well, as long as we can remember.

  61. #61 Greg Peterson
    November 11, 2008

    Recommending another book, pretty new, on Orthodox Judaism:
    The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth, by Solomon Schimmel. Part of the growing skepticism toward this sort of cruel nonsense. I still hope that a critical mass is coming where people realzie that religion often does great harm.

  62. #62 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Rabbi:

    Judaism is LIFE AFFIRMING

    First let me say thank you for setting the record straight on shabbat/heart attack.
    Now, where do you stand on poor Motl’s condition?

  63. #63 Tim Fuller
    November 11, 2008

    Sad. Superstition rules the day.

    Enjoy.

  64. #64 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    pharynguphat:
    Yeeech.

    JStein:
    Could you be more specific on what you find ridiculous; the extension of life beyond reason or this particular thread?

  65. #65 Jello
    November 11, 2008

    Amphiox

    That might seem like a reasonable way to solve the dispute but the fact remains that valuable medical equiptment is still being used to animate a corpse. The kid is dead. Forcing his heart to beat and his lungs to inflate and deflate does not change this as the signal that the brain provides that regulates thess processes is gone. This is a clear cut case of a religious couple stubbornly clinging to an outdated and demonstatable incorrect definition of death.

  66. #66 Alex
    November 11, 2008

    Can’t they just keep the heart beating in a jar or something? It seems that sure would save some space.

  67. #67 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    Since, from what I know of Judaism*, much of it is about finding ways around the prohibitions – e.g. hiring goyim to do stuff like light ovens – surely some clever scholarly type could conceive some sort of roundabout way of switching off the life support that doesn’t break the ‘rules’? Then everyone (esp. the boy) could rest easy.

    * thanks to The Simpsons, The Big Lebowski, the novels of Michael Chabon – and pop culture in general.

  68. #68 converse02
    November 11, 2008

    Imagine one day when doctors are able to keep a heart beating for 500 years or more. What will they do then?

  69. #69 Rey Fox
    November 11, 2008

    That cow heart in the Nine Inch Nails “Closer” video must really blow these people’s minds.

  70. #70 tariqata
    November 11, 2008

    My problem with the Schiavo case was this: when is feeding an extraordinary circumstance? Dialysis -sure, heart/lung machine – yep, but food and water do not constitute extraordinary life saving measures. They are basic measures to sustain life. Terri Schiavo had no hope for recovery but I still think that starving her was unethical.

    EV, I think the Schiavo case, whether one agrees with the decision or not, is a bit more complex (and I know, slightly off-topic to the post – sorry!). As I recall it, the argument revolved around whether Terri Schiavo would have wanted to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state, without mental function and once any hope of recovery was gone. The dispute arose because her husband had one opinion on her wishes, while her parents had another, and it became unclear who should make decisions on her behalf.

    I am a bit uncomfortable with the decision in the Schiavo case because I really don’t see how a solid conclusion about her wishes could have been reached in the absence of a written directive, but I don’t think it’s necessarily unethical to withdraw a life-sustaining treatment. I’m not totally sure that this is what you’re arguing, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to say that an individual could make the decision ahead of time to forego a treatment like a feeding tube. If the individual had clearly made that choice and recovery was clearly not possible, would it be unethical to withdraw a feeding tube?

  71. #71 Emmet Caulfield
    November 11, 2008

    Thus spake SC:

    That didn’t come from me. Didn’t. Not me.

    I think I’m going to see if I can start a new in-joke where the first post in every thread is attributed to you… whether you wrote it or not… or maybe just randomly ascribing other posts to you :o)

  72. #72 SEF
    November 11, 2008

    Hasidic Jews who cling to an archaic belief that life is determined by the presence of a beating heart

    But medical intervention is against their god’s will and his evident wish to kill their son and take his imaginary soul.

    The hospital should disconnect the body from that unnatural abomination of machinery and make the family perform the heart massage etc manually themselves for as long as they and their god think they can keep going with it.

  73. #73 DiscoveredJoys
    November 11, 2008

    Out of curiosity, what do Hasidic Jews believe about heart transplants? At some point of the transplant operation circulation is maintained by an external pump, is the patient ‘religiously dead’ at this point?

  74. #74 One Eyed Jack
    November 11, 2008

    Coughlin’s Law: Bury the dead. They stink up the place.

    -Cocktail (1988)

  75. #75 SES
    November 11, 2008

    My problem with the Schiavo case was this: when is feeding an extraordinary circumstance? Dialysis -sure, heart/lung machine – yep, but food and water do not constitute extraordinary life saving measures. They are basic measures to sustain life. Terri Schiavo had no hope for recovery but I still think that starving her was unethical.

    But it’s not like she wanted to eat and they were keeping food just out of her reach. Feeding her through a gastric tube is extraordinary. You can justify that on an acute basis but when there is no hope for recovery it just doesn’t make sense.

    I’m always amused by those who say that only god can decide when someone should die and then use that as an excuse to keep people going through extraordinary means. Isn’t that going against “god’s will?” I mean, god shut them down to the point where they would be dead without human intervention, right?

    Sort of like folks who sustain a life-threatening injury in a major accident and then thank god for the miracle of saving their lives. What? Why didn’t god just keep them from getting into the accident in the first place? Is he just #$%^&*@ with them?

    It’s all post-hoc rationalization to support a belief system.

  76. #76 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to say that an individual could make the decision ahead of time to forego a treatment like a feeding tube. If the individual had clearly made that choice and recovery was clearly not possible, would it be unethical to withdraw a feeding tube?

    Fantastic response.
    I agree with you, but it was never established what Terri’s wishes were from the standpoint of intervention. DNR. Many people only count “extraordinary measures” as heart defibrillation, dialysis, ventilator – but is a feeding tube an extraordinary measure?
    I can’t answer your last question though. Personally, I’m for my own euthanasia, should I come down with an incurable protracted fatal disease. If I were in a vegetative state and my body continued to function with just a feeding tube, would I want that tube removed in order to die by starvation? Yes, but it’s more of a financial decision than anything else. Why bankrupt the family to postpone the inevitable?

  77. #77 gort
    November 11, 2008

    @73

    That question is the polar opposite of the current situation. Saving life is a paramount concern of Jewish law, so re-starting a heart is fine. The current problem is whether it is proper to stop a heart by removing the life supports. IANAR, but I think that there is a variety of answers on that question.

  78. #78 Don
    November 11, 2008

    I sigh when I think of the perfectly good organs going to waste.

  79. #79 Chris
    November 11, 2008

    Rabbi Mordechai: Thanks for the clarification!

  80. #80 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    But it’s not like she wanted to eat and they were keeping food just out of her reach. Feeding her through a gastric tube is extraordinary.

    Having survived two events where I could not feed myself and was unaware of whether I wanted to eat or not, I don’t see this as so cut and dried. Does feeding a pet or a baby constitute special measures? Many elderly require feeding tubes.
    Maybe I’m thinking too hard on the division of basic human needs and artificial measures. Feeding tubes are very low tech and can be administered easily by non-medical people, so I can’t quite see that removing a feeding tube is ethical.

  81. #81 gort
    November 11, 2008

    Re 78,

    I sigh when I think of the perfectly good organs going to waste.

    This kid died of cancer. Out of curiosity, could some of the doctors out there answer if organs from cancer victims are used in transplants? I really hope not!

  82. #82 Fernando Magyar
    November 11, 2008

    Posted by: Liberal Atheist

    Zombie religion indeed, in more ways than one. When are we finally going to say enough is enough, that these primitive and sometimes barbaric customs and religions have no place in an enlightened civilisation?

    That’s easy! When we actually *HAVE* an enlightened civilization…

  83. #83 Qwerty
    November 11, 2008

    It looks like the hospital will have to keep him alive until this is resolved or possibly face a wrongful death lawsuit.

  84. #84 SES
    November 11, 2008
    But it’s not like she wanted to eat and they were keeping food just out of her reach. Feeding her through a gastric tube is extraordinary.

    Having survived two events where I could not feed myself and was unaware of whether I wanted to eat or not, I don’t see this as so cut and dried. Does feeding a pet or a baby constitute special measures? Many elderly require feeding tubes. Maybe I’m thinking too hard on the division of basic human needs and artificial measures. Feeding tubes are very low tech and can be administered easily by non-medical people, so I can’t quite see that removing a feeding tube is ethical.

    Ummm… you left out the part where I said “You can justify that on an acute basis but when there is no hope for recovery it just doesn’t make sense.”

  85. #85 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    I sigh when I think of the perfectly good organs going to waste.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that adherents of most variants of judaism don’t believe in organ transplants either – the body needs all its ‘bits’ intact when it’s buried or it won’t go to heaven.

  86. #86 Arthur Sanford
    November 11, 2008

    I would argue that the Hadith and Torah say nothing about, for or against, life-support machines. But I’m sure there’s some self-supporting religious solipsism against basic ethical engagement.

  87. #87 Sastra
    November 11, 2008

    Keeping a corpse’s heart beating as a matter of “principle” is really just crass display. Hey, look how strained, pointless, useless, annoying, and convoluted our behavior is — clearly God (and the neighbors) will all be impressed. We’re doing things that make an already painful situation a lot more difficult! Our belief defies common sense! Is that humble, or what?

    Pull the plug, and let them imagine that God gives them a gold star for piety and — now — martyrdom. They’ve been looked at. That’s all they want; they know their son is dead.

  88. #88 tariqata
    November 11, 2008

    Feeding tubes are very low tech and can be administered easily by non-medical people, so I can’t quite see that removing a feeding tube is ethical.

    In a situation where it’s been established that there is no hope of recovery and there is clear evidence of the patient’s wishes, I would argue that it is ethical. I think the patient’s wishes concerning particular situations should be given more weight than the degree of the intervention.

    For example, if I were to experience a stroke, I would absolutely want medical professionals to intervene to keep me from dying. But if the stroke were severe, and after the event it became clear that I was no longer a conscious being, I don’t think I’d want my body kept alive, regardless of the degree of intervention required. This is largely because I find the idea of my body being alive when everything that makes me “me” really creepy, but in any case, I think it should be my decision. On the other hand, if I were still able to think and communicate in some way, I would probably want to be able to live, with a feeding tube or not. Less anecdotally, I believe that it is not uncommon for people with terminal illness who are unable to eat to refuse the feeding tubes.

    So, leaving aside considerations of cost, I think that the situation and patient’s wishes have to determine the treatment, not the kind of treatment required.

  89. #89 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    Ummm… you left out the part where I said “You can justify that on an acute basis but when there is no hope for recovery it just doesn’t make sense.”

    So at what point do you determine there is no hope for recovery and remove the tube? I’m assuming with Schiavo’s case, there was a waiting period on a feeding tube before she stabilized and a long term prognosis could be given.
    I understand what you’re saying and evidently it’s also pretty cut and dried to many readers as shown by the lack of response (that’s not meant to sound like an indictment).

  90. #90 Joshua BA
    November 11, 2008

    Just wanted to ask the question someone else asked again. What does it mean to say your religion is “life affirming”?

    I looked up “affirming” just to be sure I wasn’t being confused by a definition in my head that wasn’t square with reality. It was what I thought it was: to affirm something is to put fort the position that something is true or has value. How many religions out there don’t hold that life has value or that it does indeed exist? I can’t imagine that that the ones that DISaffirm life could have all that many followers, certainly not so many that it would necessitate one distancing their own religion from them (“join our religion, nothing you do or are has value” doesn’t sound like a good sales pitch).

    It seems very odd to me to state proudly that you don’t think everyone’s life is valueless. That’s how most people view things. It’s like if I pointed out to people who ask about me that I don’t punch myself in the face every morning. Punching myself in the face would be an extraordinary trait and unless I stated that I would do so, it seems to me that I should not need to comment on it. In fact the only reason I can see for commenting on myself not having an extraordinary trait would be to elicit praise and attention for something undeserving of it, to make myself look better in the face of some other crazy thing I was doing.

  91. #91 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    SES & Tariqata:
    I appreciate your answers. I could have used you when this same discussion came up a couple of years ago.

  92. #92 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 11, 2008

    Terri Schiavo had no hope for recovery but I still think that starving her was unethical.

    Her brain cortex was gone. As in, gone. Dissolved. Decomposed like this guy’s.

    I sigh when I think of the perfectly good organs going to waste.

    Hmmm. Transplanting the heart into someone else would keep it beating… :-)

    Out of curiosity, could some of the doctors out there answer if organs from cancer victims are used in transplants? I really hope not!

    Cancer cells that reach the circulation — which may not even have happened in the case of this particular brain tumor; I have no idea — don’t settle down in all tissues equally easily. I don’t know, but it’s imaginable some organs are still usable.

  93. #93 Carlie
    November 11, 2008

    I’m assuming with Schiavo’s case, there was a waiting period on a feeding tube before she stabilized and a long term prognosis could be given.

    It was over 15 years before they even started fighting over removal. That’s pretty low odds that some kind of recovery would happen after that.

  94. #94 Emmet Caulfield
    November 11, 2008

    What does it mean to say your religion is “life affirming”?

    Nothing. It’s vacuous drivel, a vapid trope, beloved of theists, bereft of meaning.

  95. #95 Rickr0ll
    November 11, 2008

    correction #8 Could go to the moon. It’s not gonna happen again anytime soon. I think this is fishy (because fich is kocher lol), but, no seriously i think that the family felt pressured into behaving this way by the religious community and didn’t want to have to endure being ostricised as well as having a dead child. The parents knew that there was no hope, so in all honesty, they would have pulled the plug then and there. the thing that was holding them back was thier religious obligations, but i don’t think it was personal conviction, not in the least. No one is that masochistic

  96. #96 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 11, 2008

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that adherents of most variants of judaism don’t believe in organ transplants either – the body needs all its ‘bits’ intact when it’s buried or it won’t go to heaven.

    Oooooh yeah. I overlooked that. (Though I think it’s resurrection, not heaven, that requires the whole human.)

  97. #97 Rickr0ll
    November 11, 2008

    Posted by: Emmet Caulfield #42

    “This hospital wants to kill him instead of treat him,” Zuckerman said.
    I wonder what treatment protocol Zuckerman expects for “rotting dead brain”. I suggest the classic “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.

    You put the lime in the coconut and shalke at all up
    lol. i’m a sick freak

  98. #98 Hoku
    November 11, 2008

    So at what point do you determine there is no hope for recovery and remove the tube? I’m assuming with Schiavo’s case, there was a waiting period on a feeding tube before she stabilized and a long term prognosis could be given. I understand what you’re saying and evidently it’s also pretty cut and dried to many readers as shown by the lack of response (that’s not meant to sound like an indictment).
    Schiavo was in the PVC for years before her husband decided to pull the plug. The controversy was because her parents decided challenged his decision, and tried to get him removed as her legal guardian, claiming he wasn’t acting in her interests.

  99. #99 Hoku
    November 11, 2008

    ^the first paragraph is a quote from ev @89

  100. #100 Benjamin Franklin
    November 11, 2008

    An interesting article yesterday in Slate about how different religions determine time of death.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2204242/

    My thoughts are, You Stupid People! Pull the plug and bury the body!

  101. #101 Rickr0ll
    November 11, 2008

    idiot. he song goes “and drink it all up”

  102. #102 jon
    November 11, 2008

    Just in reply to those people who are talking about “poor Motyl’s condition” or saying things like

    His brain is DECOMPOSING? And they still won’t let the poor little kid die peacefully?

    , Motl Brody is dead. He was apparently given all appropriate life-saving and palliative treatment. He is not the victim here (though to be sure, it is a tragic case), the taxpayers and those attempting to use our already over-burdened health care system are the victims.

  103. #103 Nerd of Redhead
    November 11, 2008

    but it’s imaginable some organs are still usable.

    Since the organ may have microscopic metastasized cancer cells, I don’t think any transplant surgeon would take a chance. They prefer motorcycle accident victims. Young and in good shape.

  104. #104 Wowbagger
    November 11, 2008

    idiot. he song goes “and drink it all up”

    I prefer Homer’s version, ‘you pour the beer in the coconut and throw the can away’ – which will, ideally, hit Flanders in the head.

  105. #105 melissa
    November 11, 2008

    E.V.,

    You need to ask yourself, what is ethical than.

    If it was unethical to use the most professional way to peacefully end someone life, than is it wrong. there are other more dangerous procedure that one could had taken, like inject terri with lethal injection or use the electric chair, or bomb the hospital with uranim bombs, but instead they chose a more moral (though not unethical) way to end someone’s life.

  106. #106 YetAnotherKevin
    November 11, 2008

    So… what if they donate the heart for transplantation? Then their son can go on to lead a happy healthy life, and the recipient need never know that he/she is nothing but a host.

  107. #107 YetAnotherKevin
    November 11, 2008

    Crap, that’s what I get for skimming the last 50 comments.

  108. #108 Walton
    November 11, 2008

    This post is an extremely good argument for libertarianism, in fact.

    Look at it this way. The boy is, as clearly stated, brain-dead. He isn’t suffering in any way as a result of being kept alive. So no one is being obviously harmed by compliance with his parents’ wishes to keep him alive.

    However, expense is being incurred by whoever is funding his medical treatment. I assume this is his insurer; in the UK, it would be the taxpayer-funded National Health Service. This I have a problem with; there is no objective justification for keeping the boy alive, and so taxpayers’ money should not be spent on doing so.

    But in a free society, in which the parents were spending their own funds on his treatment and it is up to them to decide whether it should be continued, no one could be harmed by their decision. Simply put, I don’t care how long they want to keep him alive, since he can’t experience suffering and there is no possible harm from his continued existence; but I do care if our money is being spent on subsidising their religious views. This is a powerful argument against healthcare being free at the point of use and funded by the taxpayer.

  109. #109 Kel
    November 11, 2008

    This post is an extremely good argument for libertarianism, in fact.

    *sigh* they just can’t help themselves.

  110. #110 Andrew Skegg
    November 11, 2008

    This is a horrible story. At least the poor boy is no longer suffering (as far as we can tell).
    Just switch the machines off and God will keep him alive as long as he wants – which I think would be about 2 minutes max.

  111. #111 SC
    November 11, 2008

    *sigh* they just can’t help themselves.

    It’s like a bizarre (though fortunately rare) sickness – like some strange virus has infected their brains, causing them to view and speak about the world in purely ideological terms. It’s quite astonishing, really.

  112. #112 Jaknelaps
    November 11, 2008

    Does anyone know anything about the book “Evolution and/or Creation: an Islamic Perspective” by T.O. Shanavas? The author is coming to the University of Wisconsin on Thursday Nov. 13th and I would like to be able to grill him with at least one penetrating question.

  113. #113 Gary Bohn
    November 11, 2008

    Kel,

    *sigh* they just can’t help themselves.

    To a hammer, everything is a nail just waiting to be hit.

  114. #114 John Marley
    November 11, 2008

    I have seen some comments here along the lines of “the poor boy” and “he could be allowed to rest in peace”.

    Um… His brain is dead and decomposing. His body is an animated corpse. He cannot in any way be “poor” or “not at peace”. Motl Brody doesn’t care. He doesn’t have a stake in this. The argument is entirely about funny beliefs and wasted medical facilities.

  115. #115 Jason
    November 11, 2008

    @108

    One thing you’re forgetting, though- it isn’t just about who is paying for the medical care, it’s the fact that hospital resources (physician/nurse time, machines, a room, a bed…) are being wasted that could be used for someone else who could potentially be saved. So I posit that this case is a lousy argument for libertarianism. Just sayin’. But let that be the end of it. This isn’t about economics.

  116. #116 Bill in NC
    November 11, 2008

    Feeding tubes are considered under U.S. law same as any other medical intervention.

    And there is nothing “low tech” about a long-term feeding tube (e.g. PEG tube) – it requires surgery to implant, which is not the case with other life-sustaining treatments such as a ventilator, and must be medically maintained (infection remains a risk)

    In the Schiavo case, a state Supreme Court decision mandated orally expressed end-of-life wishes must be considered when deciding whether or not to remove life-sustaining treatment.

  117. #117 raven
    November 11, 2008

    The chances that the parents or insurance company are paying for this are about zero. The kid had cancer and by now both the insurance and parents money are all but exhausted.

    The hospital is picking it up.

    There is an ethical problem here. Resources spent on animated bodies are denied to the living but poor.

  118. #118 E.V.
    November 11, 2008

    It’s like a bizarre (though fortunately rare) sickness – like some strange virus has infected their brains, causing them to view and speak about the world in purely ideological terms. It’s quite astonishing, really.

    What? Libertarianism?

  119. #119 John Morales
    November 11, 2008

    raven @117,

    There is an ethical problem here. Resources spent on animated bodies are denied to the living

    I concur, and think this incident going to court is a (another) good opportunity to examine the issue and establish precedents in law, because it’s going to happen more and more as medical technology advances.

  120. #120 raven
    November 11, 2008

    wikipedia

    Examination of Schiavo’s nervous system by neuropathologist Stephen J. Nelson, M.D., revealed extensive injury. The brain itself weighed only 615 g, only half the weight expected for a female of her age, height, and weight, an effect caused by the loss of a massive amount of neurons. Microscopic examination revealed extensive damage to nearly all brain regions, including the cerebral cortex, the thalami, the basal ganglia, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the midbrain. The neuropathologic changes in her brain were precisely of the type seen in patients who enter a PVS following cardiac arrest. Throughout the cerebral cortex, the large pyramidal neurons that comprise some 70% of cortical cells – critical to the functioning of the cortex – were completely lost. The pattern of damage to the cortex, with injury tending to worsen from the front of the cortex to the back, is also typical. There was marked damage to important relay circuits deep in the brain (the thalami) – another common pathologic finding in cases of PVS. The damage was, in the words of Thogmartin, “irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.”[59]

    Terri Shiavo was essentially dead, as shown by autopsy. Her brain weighed half of what it did originally at 615 grams with a severely atrophied cerebral cortex. This is close in size to a chimpanzee which was runs around 400 g.

    A cat or a chimp would be far more alive in any meaningfull sense of the word. These are fully functioning, thinking, and self aware mammals.

    The Liars for jesus never let reality get in the way of their falsehoods.

  121. #121 Lowell
    November 11, 2008

    Sastra @87

    I wish you were wrong, but I think you’re probably not. It’s a display of their piety and, ultimately, a ploy for greater attendance at the shiva and the attendant social status. God that sucks.

  122. #122 raven
    November 11, 2008

    FWIW, it is quite common for people to “pull their plugs” at the end of their lives. That is an idiom of course, rarely do they actually reach over and pull a plug out of the wall.

    Even the last Pope did it, John Paul II. At the end of his long illnesses, the docs wanted to take him to a hospital and hook him up. He told them forget it, he’s going and a few more days isn’t going to matter and he wants to die at home in comfort.

    A few zealots had the usual comments about suicidal terminal patients and all that. Most people told them to shut up and go figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or something equally useful.

  123. #123 Zetetic
    November 11, 2008

    #77 – You said the issue “is whether it is proper to stop a heart by removing the life supports”. They wouldn’t be “stopping” the heart. It can’t beat on its own. It’s not like they are going to shock a beating heart and force it to stop, thereby killing the patient. If someone was holding the heart in his or her hand, squeezing it rhythmically, then decided to stop squeezing, would you accuse him or her of “stopping” the heart? Of course not. It’s done. Dead. Finished. It will never beat again. They aren’t “stopping” the heart, they are stopping this grotesque simulacrum of beating.

  124. #124 Brett
    November 12, 2008

    I just hope that if universal health care were instated in america someday, the hospitals would not be subject to keeping vegetables alive at everyone else’s expense.

  125. #125 Dale Husband
    November 12, 2008

    The boy’s family belong to a sect of Hasidic Jews…

    Sounds more like sadistic Jews to me!
    Could those parents be declared unfit by mental disease or defect? I know nothing in the Bible that states that life is defined by a beating heart.

  126. #126 John C. Randolph
    November 12, 2008

    I lived close to real Hasidic jews and they wouldn’t call an ambulance if one of them had a heart attack on their sabbath.

    Dying to follow the law isn’t a mitzvah, and any decent Rabbi would tell them so. If you’re a Jew, you’re supposed to keep kosher, but you don’t have to if the alternative is to starve. You’re supposed to wear a yarmulke, but you don’t have to if you’re in a place where advertising your religion would get you killed.

    -jcr

  127. #127 John C. Randolph
    November 12, 2008

    the body needs all its ‘bits’ intact when it’s buried or it won’t go to heaven.

    No, Judaism doesn’t make such a claim.

    Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of the matter of organ donation and Jewish law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_donation_under_Jewish_law

    The overall duty to preserve a life wins, as far as most rabbinical authorities are concerned.

    -jcr

  128. #128 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    #3 Wouldn’t they have to pay for this out of their own funds? Surely insurance or any indigent fund wouldn’t cover it. If that’s so, it shouldn’t last long.

    Actually I just finished watching a video on this and the insurance is expected to cover it. I am almost stunned beyond words at the tragedy and complete ignorance and total lack of respect for this poor boy’s life that they would rather keep him hooked up to machines than take him off and let the life that he had and their memory of him the way he was be remembered and respected. Instead they will replace those memories of him, with a body lying in a bed decomposing. It is just disgusting!

    http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=4226712&cl=10631518&src=news

  129. #129 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    #10- They aren’t Christians they are Jews. Christains believe in Jesus, Jews do not, so I don’t think they would agree to be called a Christian in any sense of the word.

  130. #130 Kseniya
    November 12, 2008

    Wow. Mr. Rooke is still plodding away here?

    Tell me, Mr. Rooke, are you defending this? Or are you merely pretending to defend it because you’re such a principled contrarian? What good is a principle if it is misguided? What good is blind adherence to a pointless principle when it flies in the face of reason, humanity, and the wishes of all involved?

  131. #131 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    #10 I’m sorry. I read through some more of the posts and realize that I read what you were saying the wrong way.

  132. #132 Kseniya
    November 12, 2008

    Shorter Emanuel Goldstein:

    “I am a shallow, bitter twit.”

  133. #133 John Morales
    November 12, 2008

    EG@130, that’s trollish. At the very top of the page, it clearly says PZ is “a godless liberal”.

  134. #134 Eric Paulsen
    November 12, 2008

    Not to sound TOO cold here but aren’t there better equipped and less expensive places to store meat? Does their religion demand that the body be left in a hospital or can they take it home with them to die, which it surely will? The child they loved is gone, if they want to keep the body going because their religion demands it then they should bring it home with them to maintain until the end.

  135. #135 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    There are several posts that have made remarks that this isn’t happening here. This happened in Washington D.C.! The attorney says “It’s fully covered by insurance”. The hospital only has 20 beds in the ICU unit and they say that getting him transferred after being pronounced braindead is highly unlikely! The family has talked about organ donation but the hospital says that if the legal battle continues the organs will be useless. Also the hospital could face fines for keeping a patient with no brain function alive. The lawyer and the family who are supposedly being tormented are lower than pond scum in my opinion they say “Why not just wait and let nature take it’s course.”
    How can nature take it’s course when the machine’s his corpse is hooked up to are unnaturally keeping his body in some kind of functioning state. You ignorant, pathetic, waste of human beings how dare you sit there and claim to be victimized by the hospital when they are wanting to help people who still can be helped. How dare you claim any kind of religious rights you know there is nothing that can be done for him and that you are preventing life saving care to another persons child. If the hospital gets fined or another child dies because they didn’t have space in the ICU, I think they should sue not only these people but the church they belong to as well!
    Sorry felt the need to rant some more.

  136. #136 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    #130-No PZ isn’t a Jew he was taken to a Lutheran church growing up. By the way WTF does Ireal having bombs have to do with what happened to this child!

    #57 I bet you think that nobody caught what you said but I did and
    YOU NEED TO GO TAKE AN ENEMA FOR THE CORN COB THAT’S SHOVED SO FAR UP YOUR ASS!!!! YOU PATHETIC WASTE OF A HUMAN BEING!

  137. #137 Rickr0ll
    November 12, 2008

    wowbagger @ 104: you can’t give alchohol to a minor. don’t you know how many brains cells alchohol kills? Whoops, oh never mind
    Seamaiden, the #10 post was sardonic, because they’ve basically built this alter for the undead corpse of thier son, much as christians built churches and alters for the undead corpse of Jesus Christ. See how the pieces fit together now? I said this before, but it merits being said again: I think that the family felt pressured into behaving this way by the religious community and didn’t want to have to endure being ostricised as well as having a dead child. The parents knew that there was no hope, so in all honesty, they would have pulled the plug then and there. the thing that was holding them back was thier religious obligations, but i don’t think it was personal conviction, not in the least. No one is that masochistic
    However, you rant correctly in my book, for what it’s worth.

  138. #138 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    November 12, 2008

    Seamaiden75, Goldstein is one of the most infamous and most dense trolls ever to roll through the intertubes. For years the idiot has slimed various atheist sites and it is the same BS. It is pointless to talk to it or to comment about it. Shit, Legion (For it has many alias.) makes the Rookie look halfway sane. The Kansas Troll was placed in the dungeon long ago but every so often, it feels compelled to leave it’s droppings. Just leave it for PZ to flush away

  139. #139 scrabcake
    November 12, 2008

    This really isn’t that tragic. Sick, but not really tragic. The boy is gone. He’s dead. He can’t feel, and he isn’t suffering. His “soul” if there is such a thing has left already. The parents are the ones who are prolonging their own suffering by refusing to let go. In the end, this exercise will hurt them, their pocketbook, and the doctors, who probably have much better and more immediate things to do with that equipment than keep a heart that has no mind attached to it alive.

  140. #140 Wowbagger
    November 12, 2008

    John C. Randolph, #127

    Thanks for that – it’s good to know some religions do act in life-affirming ways rather than just claim they do.

  141. #141 ZevAbe
    November 12, 2008

    How dare you question their motives? How dare you accuse someone else of lacking faith because you lack the courage of your convictions to believe what you believe even when it is difficult? How dare anyone mock the beliefs of a family whose son is dying, or of anyone at all? To say that you would behave differently in their situation is a far cry from cavalierly suggesting that the beliefs on which they base their decisions are nonsensical.

  142. #142 Kel
    November 12, 2008

    And the moral highground goes to… ZevAbe for post #142

  143. #143 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    Hey Rickroll- I recanted my post from #129 in #132 but thank you. :) By the way I didn’t take offense to your last post in Mormon Meddlers I was trying to say that in a teasing/kidding light hearted sort of way that I wasn’t trying to be creepy. Don’t worry I didn’t take offense and by the way thank you for your compliment. :)

    Janine- ROFLMAO Thank you I needed that! The only troll that I’ve been able to recognize so far is Pete Rooke.

  144. #144 Rickr0ll
    November 12, 2008

    you spoke too soon seamaiden Looks like ZevAbe (if that’s who he really is) might be a godbotter. Yeah ZA, i Really think i would want ot PAY to keep the corpse of my child in an ICU ward just for the hell of wasting money and masochistic ferver, even if my beliefs stated it perfectly clearlty yo me. i really think that this has anything at all to do with thier beliefs as opposed to thier sanity. I think you are completely right ZevAbe, how i have erred. wilt thou forgive me?

  145. #145 raven
    November 12, 2008

    zevabe the idiot:

    How dare you question their motives? How dare you accuse someone else of lacking faith because you lack the courage of your convictions to believe what you believe even when it is difficult? How dare anyone mock the beliefs of a family whose son is dying, or of anyone at all? To say that you would behave differently in their situation is a far cry from cavalierly suggesting that the beliefs on which they base their decisions are nonsensical.

    Hey Zev.
    How dare you question those brave Moslem holy warriors who brough down the world trade center and killed 3,000 people?

    How dare you question those brave Jihadis who blow themselves up to get a busload of Jews in Israel somewhere?

    How dare you question those good Catholics and Lutherans who murdered 6 million Jews?

    How dare you question those good Xians who Hate, Lie, and kill on a routine basis and have for 2,000 years and do it every day?

    These are rhetorical questions and I don’t expect an honest or intelligent reply from a religious fanatic. So I’ll tell you. Religions of all types have been a smoke screen for hate, stupidity, ignorance, and most of all….evil forever on a routine basis. Sometimes people just get sick and tired of the blood and lies, stupidity, and dare to speak up. Some of us are moral, intelligent, compassionate, and educated human beings.

    That is a problem for you. So what. It is your problem not ours, deal with it.

  146. #146 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    ZevAbe – You are right. I typed alot of things out of outrage at the situation. I actually do feel sorry for the family it is an extremely tragic situation and I’m sorry.
    But I wonder how you would feel if your sick or dying child was unable to be moved to the ICU ward because there was a brain dead body taking up the last available room.? I have worked in a hospital before and that has happened. Would you think that their religious convictions trumped the right of your child to be provided with care that could save their life. Or would you sacrifice the health of your child to respect their religious convictions.?

  147. #147 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    Ah I think this time I might have spoken too soon. Thank you Rickroll and Raven for sticking up for me. :)
    I love you guys!

  148. #148 Wowbagger
    November 12, 2008

    ZevAbe the clueless, screeched:

    How dare you accuse someone else of lacking faith because you lack the courage of your convictions to believe what you believe even when it is difficult?

    Emphasis mine. On the contrary, ZevAbe, we don’t for a second believe they lack faith – and that’s the problem. If they lacked faith they’d be far better off – as, no doubt, would every other person wasting their time and effort adhering to an outdated, ludicrous religion.

    How dare anyone mock the beliefs of a family whose son is dying, or of anyone at all?

    Their son isn’t dying; he’s dead. What they’re doing is the equivalent of having his corpse stuffed and mounted and place in their living room to make themselves feel guilty because they think that’s what their god wants. And wasting precious resources that could be saving someone who does have a chance of life. And because it is their religion which is causing this unnecessary agony, it deserves mocking.

    To say that you would behave differently in their situation is a far cry from cavalierly suggesting that the beliefs on which they base their decisions are nonsensical.

    Their beliefs are nonsensical, since all their inhumane religion is doing to them now is prolonging the agony that they deserve to have ended. It is not ‘cavalier’ to suggest that; it is rational.

  149. #149 Kel
    November 12, 2008

    Since when should beliefs be protected?

  150. #150 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    Geez I really gotta get better at reading irony on this board. (bangs head on keyboard, stupid, stupid, stupid)

  151. #151 Alan Kellogg
    November 12, 2008

    How does the soul interface with the brain?

    Originally the soul-brain interface used proprietary software. More recently open source software is being used, and the development team does not put much of an emphasis on quality control. Being incapable of understanding that most people can not learn through anti-sense education doesn’t help any.

  152. #152 Richard Eis
    November 12, 2008

    - This really isn’t that tragic. Sick, but not really tragic. -

    You mean this isn’t tragic until an extra device is needed to properly save someones life at that hospital and one isn’t available.

    It is not the hospitals duty to help idiots keep their honour when around their little religious friends.

  153. #153 DaveP
    November 12, 2008

    Wow! This is probably one of the sickest things I have ever heard of.

    It’s hard for me to imagine relying on a book from 1967, the year I was born, for accurate medical advice. It’s even harder for me to imagine why anyone would view a book that is more than 2000 years old as anything more than an historical reference.

    I support religious freedoms, even the ones that I disagree with. But I take exception when the free expression of that religion becomes a burden to those who do not share that belief.

    The Judge should consider fining them for wasting his and the hospitals time.

  154. #154 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    #142- courage of your convictions

    I think I’d like to add one more thing. Where is the courage of their convictions to stand up to their faith and honor the memory of their child by not letting him rot in a hospital bed. Is it not more honorable to a person’s memory to let them go with at least some form of dignity and respect. They are respecting their faith over the life he lived, their love, and their memory of their own child. So when I said “you are right” that’s only if you think that respecting your faith is more important than respecting the memory of your loved ones.
    Also I meant to say “I’m sorry” that they lost their child. That is the real tragedy here.

  155. #155 zach
    November 12, 2008

    There are two major halachic (legal) opinions of death in Orthodox Judaism, cessation of heart beat/breathing and brain death. The original definition – going back at least to Talmudic times – is the former (naturally, since there was no knowledge of the latter.) So many groups only accept that definition. But there are many rabbinic authorities now that hold by the latter, e.g., see http://www.hods.org/English/h-issues/issues.asp#brain-stem.

    Since the only real issue for the hospital at this point is the allocation of resources (personnel, money, etc) in keeping a boy on “life support” that is dead according to any scientific definition of death, I would argue that those who wish to maintain Motl on support systems (parents, Agudat Yisrael, lawyers, etc.) should bear the entire cost involved.

  156. #156 Ian
    November 12, 2008

    Sounds like a bad case of Hasid indigestion….

  157. #157 J-Dog
    November 12, 2008

    Two words that solve this dilemma: Power Outage.

    Oops, So sorry. Now move along. End Of Story.

  158. #158 Smidgy
    November 12, 2008

    It seems to me that everyone is over-complicating the issue. As I understand it, the issue is that life, under the religious laws of Judaism, is determined by the simple question, ‘is the heart still beating?’ The life support machines are forcing the boy’s heart to beat regardless, so, in order to conform to this part of Jewish law, you would have to remove the machines in order to determine whether the heart is truly still beating. If the heart stops, then it’s not, and he’s dead, according to this law.

    Problem solved.

    Oh, and J-Dog, most, if not all, hospitals have emergency generators to cope with power outages.

  159. #159 FastLane
    November 12, 2008

    As long as the family’s church (or whatever) is paying the bills, I wouldn’t have (much of) a problem with this.

  160. #160 BobbyEarle
    November 12, 2008

    Ian @157…

    Sounds like a bad case of Hasid indigestion….

    Now THAT was tragic.

  161. #161 David Marjanovi?
    November 12, 2008

    They aren’t “stopping” the heart, they are stopping this grotesque simulacrum of beating.

    Now that, of course, is wrong. The brain is dead — but the heart lives, and so does most of the rest of the body.

    That’s of course the reason why we can even talk about transplanting organs. Transplanting a dead organ would be useless.

    How did you think multicellular organisms die, anyway? Each cell dies on its own!

  162. #162 Longtime Lurker
    November 12, 2008

    Judaism is LIFE AFFIRMING

    So is pain.

    This is a fringe case, presented to hold all Jews up to ridicule.

    No, just the stupid ones, blinded by their dogma.

    Poor kid. The resources should really be used to help someone who’s got a chance. Parents should be sanctioned somehow for holding the hospital administration hostage.

  163. #163 Rickr0ll
    November 12, 2008

    J-Dog, you’re a class act, you know that?! what about the whole hospital filled with other patients you idiot?! “well we freed up that bed for your son, Mr. and Mrs. Jehovits; unfortunately, the equipment we had him on in the OR quit on us and so… he died.”

  164. #164 James
    November 12, 2008

    would the use of the machines be a violation of the sabbath? Can the machines be turned off for 24 hours on the sabbath allowing whatever is going to happen happen?

  165. #165 Jeanette
    November 12, 2008

    This seems like a clear case of abusing a corpse, but I don’t see how the hospital could be charged with it seeing as they’re being held up by the parents and the lawyer.

    I hope that the court case sets a clear precedent for hospitals follow common sense thing in such a clear-cut case. That way in the future, hospital staff won’t have to fear legal repercussions for doing the right thing, and those doctors who choose to keep corpses around as meat puppets (regardless of family/guardian opinion) will face criminal charges for such a pointlessly grotesque use of a dead body. And also for any medical consequences that befall other patients as a result of being deprived of the wasted medical resources (space, staff, and equipment).

  166. #166 Anon E. Mouse
    November 12, 2008

    I would just like to clarify something about Jewish law here. Firstly, unlike Christianity and most other religions, Judaism and Islam both come with a legal code attached. In Judaism there is an entire legal code complete with courts, judges, civil and criminal penalties, court rulings, legal precedents, etc. This is one of the reasons certain positions taken by Jews don’t seem to make sense to many non-Jews. It’s not just a matter of religion, it’s also a matter of law.

    Secondly, (and unrelated), there is currently a debate amongst Jewish legal scholars and rabbis about the exact definition of death under Jewish law. Many people do think brain death should be accepted under Jewish law, many think that cardiovascular death is the definition. If you want more details on the debate, this article talks about it:
    http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/brain.html

  167. #167 k
    November 12, 2008

    As long as it’s on THEIR dime, hey, let his heart beat for eternity!

  168. #168 Rickr0ll
    November 12, 2008

    I still think what Oolon said at #5 is valid. lol

  169. #169 Jud
    November 12, 2008

    the body needs all its ‘bits’ intact when it’s buried or it won’t go to heaven.

    No, Judaism doesn’t make such a claim.

    Affirmation (heh) of JCR’s view from myjewishlearning.com:

    Similarly, in Israel, when the Labor Party in 1977 failed to form a coalition with the religious parties in part because of Orthodox objections to autopsies, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, interviewing an Orthodox rabbi in Tel Aviv, began his questions with this one: “Is it true that the Orthodox are against post mortems because at the ‘resurrection of the dead,’ (tehiyat ha?metim) those who lack parts (or organs) from their bodies cannot rise from the grave?” The rabbi denied this in the strongest possible terms: “There is no truth in all this. It is some sort of mysticism to which we do not subscribe. When the dead arise, nobody will be excluded, even if parts or all of his body are missing.” He then explained that Orthodox objections to autopsies were based instead on fears of unnecessary desecration of the body.

  170. #170 dave
    November 12, 2008

    Wow. I thought the whole point of the Terri Schaivo controversy was that her husband, as her legal guardian, had the power to make the decision on her behalf.

    Apparently for many here it was a cold calculation about the efficiency of keeping her body functioning.

    These parents are the guardians of their child and are thus empowered to act in his best interests. End of story.

    Everyone here sounds just like the religious wackos in the Schaivo case, attempting to insert themselves into this family’s personal tragedy.

    Admittedly, there is an interesting discussion to be had about how much the hospital or the government should be expected to spend in service to this (and similar) family’s medical decisions. But most posters here seem more interested in sneering at these people and their (admittedly idiotic) beliefs.

    I probably sound like a scold, but I am pretty upset that the people here, whom I thought were on my side in giving people autonomy over their end of life decisions, would have actually been against Michael Schaivo if he had been arguing that Terry’s wishes were to remain on life support indefinitely.

  171. #171 dlnevins
    November 12, 2008

    Dave, are the people here “attempting to insert themselves into this family’s personal tragedy”, or are they BEING inserted into the tragedy (via their pocketbooks)? It’s easy to say that this family’s wishes should be respected, or that Michael Schaivo’s wishes should have been respected had he desired Terry to remain on on life support (which is what a feeding tube is) indefinitely, but when you get down to it it’s the public at large (via our tax dollars and insurance premiums) who are paying for this care. I’ve read estimates that Terry Schaivo’s care ran around $50,000/year. Over 15 years, that comes to about 7.5 MILLION dollars – and she could have lived another 15 years or longer, had the court not sided with Michael and agreed the feeding tube could be discontinued. Who else’s medical care wasn’t funded because that money was going to maintain the “life” of a brain-dead body?

    Like it or not (and most Americans don’t), medical care is a limited resource, and it always will be. Because of its cost, the care of such profoundly damaged people is almost always borne by the general public eventually. Given that reality, I don’t see why it’s inappropriate for the public to discuss where the limits lie when it comes to public financial support in these cases. Saying that shared hospital resources shouldn’t be squandered on keeping corpses “alive” simply doesn’t strike me as problematic. I’ve seen too many functional people suffer because they were denied expensive treatments they couldn’t pay for to champion the supposed “right” of families who are unable or unwilling to face the reality of death to indefinitely hijack the medical system for their own selfish ends.

  172. #172 seamaiden75
    November 12, 2008

    Dave:These parents are the guardians of their child and are thus empowered to act in his best interests. End of story.

    How are they acting in his best interest when he is dead? We are talking no function in his brain at all it is starting to decompose:
    I think if you will watch the video you’ll understand the situation a bit better. it’s the link on #128

    We aren’t being heartless here.

  173. #173 Doug the Primate
    November 13, 2008

    PZ, please mind your grammar:

    “The boy’s family belongS to a sect of Hasidic Jews …”

    Subject-verb agreement you know. I observe that a lot of Pharyngulites could use some remedial education in the grammar of the Queen’s English, and, as host, yours should be impeccable, to set the bar.

    For everyone else, the point of proper grammar is that it is part of the mechanics of conveying meaning. Bad grammar simply increases the noise to signal ratio, impairing your ability to convey your meaning transparently. Bad grammar calls attention to itself rather than to your message, as well as rendering your message obscure, ambiguous, or utterly incomprehensible. The rules of good grammar are not there to establish social strata, although their observance does function that way. They exist to help us get our points across to others.

  174. #174 dave
    November 13, 2008

    dlnevins and seamaiden:

    First of all, I understand the situation perfectly. In fact, I personally believe that the child is objectively dead. I have very little patience for the ridiculous beliefs of these people (although I don’t feel the need to openly mock them). I personally disagree with the parents here and would cease all medical care immediately if it were my child.

    Additionally, as I said in my earlier comment, I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about whether or when the existence of taxpayer money should override the wishes of patients and their families when medical science says there is no hope.

    My objection arises from the open mocking and derision directed at people in real pain and struggling with the difficult decisions that many of us will have to face at some point as well as the lack of any specific discussion about the role of the government and of doctors in implementing (or not) the decisions reached.

    The reason that the public was so overwhelmingly repulsed by republicans during the Schaivo controversy was becuase republicans were inserting their own beliefs and ideologies into what was a personal family matter.

    Perosnally, I feel strongly that the government and the public should (as much as possible) stay the hell out of such decisions, even when they are controversial or even ridiculous. The fact is, we all draw the line in slightly different places. Government is a blunt instrument and should be used sparingly, if at all, in situations like this leaving each of us to our own individual consciences.

    In terms of taxpayers role in all this, my thoughts are unformed at this point. My first instinct is to say that we should only overrule the patient/guardian’s wishes when medical science clearly indicates no hope. Even then, i would be inclined to allow futile care to continue for a brief period, if desired by the patient/guardian. (Obviously, if the patient is wealthy and can pay, then I would let care go on indefinitely).

  175. #175 Phoenix Woman
    November 13, 2008

    Raven @ 120: Thanks. I was going to post much the same thing.

    Wow, my killfile’s getting a workout today!

  176. #176 Stephen Wells
    November 14, 2008

    @Dave: the family get zero sympathy from the point where they admit that they know the kid is dead, he’s never going to get up or get better, they know he is gone, but they are sticking by a “religious commitment” which says he’s alive until his heart stops and they want the hospital to keep using its valuable life-support mechanisms, not to preserve the lives of actual, you know, alive people, but to keep a corpse warm.

  177. #177 Nick Gotts
    November 14, 2008

    These parents are the guardians of their child and are thus empowered to act in his best interests. End of story.,/I> – dave

    A dead person has no interests. End of story.

  178. #178 mindlesley
    November 15, 2008

    Wow. which goes 1st, the brainstem or the Medical Insurance. It is belief in a gangsta god that would countenance this travesty. Understand the late princess in Thailand has been lying in state from January 08 til now, prior to being cremated in 6 day ceremony. Is this a Hassidic version of this? Not only Jews, but also other desert theosophies hold similar blood sacrifice rituals -see christ on cross, mandated killing of infidels in Koran etc. Is religion an artefact of frontal/temporal lobe maladaption? or wat? Only nice calm religion/philosophy is buddhism and even they are becoming quite aggro in some areas. Peace and goodwill, Aussie Mindlesley PS Tom Lehrer said something about there is nothing worse than a Christian Scientist with a rotten appendix.

  179. #179 Paul Murray
    November 16, 2008

    I saw this thing on TV where they gave fertility drugs to two women – one a fundie christian. Each woman wound up with nine or so embryos. The non fundie terminated all but two, the fundie had them all.

    They were “Monsters”, (in the old sense of the word). The fundie’s defense? “I belive that God wanted me to keep these babies.”

    No, you stupid woman: God didn’t want you to have babies at all: *that’s why he made you infertile in the first place*.

    Remember the Rabbi, who tossed the collection into the air, and “What God wants, he keeps”? Maybe these jews should take the same attitude with their dead son.

  180. #180 Emmet Caulfield
    November 16, 2008

    dave, dlnevins,

    Schaivo

    It’s Schiavo.

  181. #181 Owlmirror
    November 17, 2008

    Looks like this is officially Over:

      Boy Whose Religious Parents Battled Hospital Dies
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Brain-Death-Religion.html

  182. #182 John Morales
    November 17, 2008

    So it’s over. But alas, no precedents were set or determinations made, so it’ll probably happen again.

    There’s no silver lining that I can see.

    Sad.

  183. #183 SEF
    November 17, 2008

    Nice URL name for that news report though: “Brain Death Religion”. It covers most of them quite well.

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