cover image Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics

Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics

Elliot N. Dorff, Author Jewish Publication Society of America $34.95 (476p) ISBN 978-0-8276-0647-0

For many years now, religious thinkers have been at the forefront of medical ethics. Catholic and Jewish writers and physicians, in particular, have taken great care to address ethical questions raised by modern medicine and to examine how those ethical questions impinge upon their religious traditions. In this book, Dorff, a Conservative Jew who has participated in the Ethics Committee of the UCLA Medical Center, argues that ""moral values [are] an integral part of the Jewish legal process by which contemporary decisions should be made."" As Jews confront ethical questions surrounding the beginning of life and the end of life, according to Dorff, they must do so with religious law in one and their moral sensitivities in the other. In the book's first section, Dorff summarizes the beliefs underlying Jewish medical ethics--""the body belongs to God,"" ""human worth stems from being created in God's image,"" ""Jews have a mandate and duty to heal,"" ""Jews must sanctify God's name""--to demonstrate their importance for contemporary discussions of Jewish medical ethics. Dorff then addresses a number of issues of medical ethics, ranging from infertility and the use of artificial insemination and issues surrounding reproductive technologies to assisted suicide, organ donation and the distribution of health care. In contrast to many Orthodox rabbis, who oppose donor insemination, Dorff argues in favor of the procedure because he says it helps couples to achieve ""a precious goal in Jewish law and thought, the bearing of children."" Though this and other of Dorff's positions are likely to be controversial within and without Judaism, his book is a thorough introduction to Jewish medical ethics. (July)