13 January 2006

Shiavo/Sharon? The¬†AP¬†predicts that Ariel Sharon’s response after doctors bring him out of his artificial, drug-induced coma — either regaining consciousness, or requiring life support — could spark serious Jewish debate on the halachically correct approach to rejecting life-prolonging measures or declaring death for people who couldn’t survive without life support. Notwithstanding an opinion issued in 1986 by Israel’s chief rabbinate, which defined death as the cessation of activity of major parts of the brain stem which control basic body functions like breathing, these matters are far from decided under existing Jewish law, and dissenting rabbis who define death more strictly as the absence of any movement in the body could lead to major controversy along the lines of last year’s Terri Schiavo debate in the U.S.