New Review – Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making

Judy Simon • Arutz Sheva

The Fine Line Between Life and Death: The Hospital Rabbi

Medical Decisions web 1

Rabbi Jason Weiner is a hospital chaplain. He guides people through intense moments in life, death, and everything in between.

When Rabbi Jason Weiner finished Rabbinical School and acquired Smicha (rabbinic ordination), the one thing he knew is that he never wanted to work in a hospital setting.

Apparently, G-d had other plans for him.

Rabbi Weiner was serving as assistant rabbi of a synagogue in Southern California when he was asked to fill in for the ill rabbi serving as hospital chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. With much hesitation, Rabbi Weiner complied. Within a few months, he realized that his work there was challenging and intriguing, as well as intensely significant.

“Synagogues oftentimes have barriers,” he explains. “There are people who don’t want to step into a synagogue. Either they’re afraid, or they don’t feel comfortable, or they can’t afford it, or they have bad memories. But there’s really no barriers to a hospital Everyone comes into the hospital. And oftentimes, people come to the hospital and they don’t have a rabbi, and they start thinking about ultimate questions, and they want guidance.”

Rabbi Jason Weiner recently authored a book called Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision-Making. It’s a comprehensive summary of issues that reflect both medicine and Jewish law. While it is not to be used as a replacement for conferring with rabbis or doctors, it’s an excellent resource for people who are going through medical issues, or for their families. Many doctors don’t know Jewish law and have a lot of misconceptions; many rabbis aren’t familiar enough with the medical field to give a proper answer. Rabbi Weiner shares his knowledge, and real-life stories about both situations.

He points out the difference between the medical view and the halakhic view of life and death, describes the difficult decision of giving a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, talks about reproductive issues for parents who are both carriers of a deadly disease, and expounds on the wonders of stem cell research. “We believe in the value of life, in the beauty of life, and in the potential inherent in every moment of life,” Rabbi Weiner explains. “[While] we do everything to prolong life, we also don’t want to prolong the dying process or to prolong suffering.”

Do we pray for the recovery of a person on their death-bed? Can we “pull the plug” on a person who is dying in order to make room in the ICU for a trauma victim who is likely to recover? Tune in to find out, and to meet a compassionate and articulate person who has learned how to walk the fine line between spirituality and knowledge.


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