Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  The Jewish Publication Society
Published:  2003
Language:  English
Pages:   476

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About the Book

Incredible medical breakthroughs of today, like genetic engineering, in-vitro fertilization, and cloning, as well as the ability and choice to prolong life force us as Jews and human beings to struggle with the dilemmas posed by modern medicine. How does one decide which treatments to accept as appropriate and which not? Jewish law and ethics, as Dr. Elliot Dorff points out, which stem from the ancient teachings of the Talmud, do not directly address these modern issues, but the Jewish tradition can be used as a foundation on which to build a contemporary perspective and understanding of them. In Matters of Life and Death, Dr. Elliot Dorff addresses the unavoidable confluence of medical technology and Jewish law and ethics. Dr. Dorff, who has been studying and consulting on biomedical ethics for more than thirty years, discusses modern medical ethical dilemmas from a specifically Conservative Jewish point of view. He includes issues such as artificial insemination, genetic engineering, cloning, surrogate motherhood, and birth control, as well as living wills, hospice care, euthanasia, organ donation, and autopsy.


Table of Contents Preface Acknowledgments Part One Matters of Method and Belief Consulting the Jewish Tradition for Moral Guidance Fundamental Beliefs Underlying Jewish Medical Ethics Part Two Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life Having Children with One"s Own Having Children Using Donated Genetic Materials Preventing Pregnancy The Social Context of Generating Life Part Three Matters at the End of Life Preparing for Death The Process of Dying After Death Part Four The Communal Context of Medical Non-medical Aspects of Medical Care Epilogue: An Imperative to Choose Life Notes Appendix: The Philosophical Foundations of My Approach to Bioethics Notes to the Appendix Bibliography Index

An Excerpt from the Book

JEWS LIKE TO THINK OF THE JEWISH TRADITION AS A WAY OF life. That phrase describes the all-encompassing nature of Judaism, with concepts, values, stories, and laws articulating a point of view on virtually everything, from the most trivial to the most sublime. Depicting Judaism as a way of life also conveys its ever-developing nature, for just as the condi­tions of human life continually change, so too do Jewish views and patterns of action. In each age, however, Judaism must earn the compliment of being valued as a complete way of life by remaining relevant to new sensitivities and circumstances. In the service of attaining that end, Jews who know and love the tradition must ever be willing to stretch it to address the old problems that now appear in new guises and the completely new problems produced by changed contexts, moral awareness, and technologies. Rabbis and other learned Jews who refuse to expand the scope of Judaism in that way do a disservice to both Jews and Judaism; in the name of preserving the tradition that our ancestors have passed down to us, they make it irrelevant or, worse, morally blind and harmful.On the other hand, Jews who ignore their tradition altogeth­er or identify it with whatever they happen to think at the moment also do a disservice to both Jews and Judaism. After all, Jews throughout the ages have cherished their tradition—even died for it—because it has constituted a fount of wisdom for their lives, the road to holiness, and their understanding of the will of God. For individuals to identify it cavalierly with what­ ever they think is right is to abandon it for their own limited wisdom. A large part of the tradition"s value is precisely that it is normative, that it challenges us to think and act in ways that we would not otherwise imagine. The trick, then, is to find a way to balance tradition with change, to learn how to hone one"s sense of judgment so as to be able to apply the tradition wisely to modern circumstances. Sometimes that means adhering to the ancient ideas and laws, even against modern trends; sometimes it means finding ways to apply traditional Jewish law or thought to new circumstances; and sometimes achieving a proper balance between tradition and modernity requires revising Jewish tradition to meet the demands or incorporate the advantages of new needs and circumstances. Deciding how to respond appropriately to specific issues is definitely not an easy process. Indeed, no individual can rightfully claim total wisdom or moral sensitivity; only God can. The best that we humans can do is to engage in serious discussions with others in order to refine our own think­ing and practice. I personally consider myself fortunate in hav­ing the Conservative movement"s community in general, and its Committee on Jewish Law and Standards in particular, as my fellow travelers in our mutual attempt to discern what is good and holy in life, what, to the best of our knowledge, God would have us do.