Approximately 20 Rabbanim, representing the spectrum of Toronto’s Jewish community, were given an informative overview of the world of medicine, providing them with the ability to better respond to halachic questions about contemporary end-of-life situations.
Machon Chayim Aruchim members Rabbi Eliezer Gewirtzman and Rabbi Naftali Katz were invited to make the presentation to Toronto’s Rabbanim by Rabbi Yaakov Felder, Rav of the Shomrai Shabbos shul and chairman of the COR’s Rabbinical Vaad Hakashrus, in an effort to better serve the local community.
The meeting took place at the Petah Tikva shul with the full backing of Toronto’s Jewish community and focused on issues that are often raised by callers to Chayim Aruchim’s 24-hour hotline.
“Our goal was to educate the Rabbanim on trends in society and in the medical world and to give them accurate information based on our research and in consultation with medical experts,” explained Rabbi Katz.
“With so many in the medical world focusing on comfort care and quality of life, it is important to ensure that patients are given everything they need in order to live al pi halachah.”
A PowerPoint presentation and detailed handouts helped clarify many of the issues at hand, which included understanding the differences between heart attacks and cardiac arrest and their associated care, learning about various methods of providing artificial nutrition and the relatively unknown consequences of signing “Do Not Resuscitate” orders which often translates into a lower standard of patient care.
“We explained to Rabbanim several medical conditions that can arise in end-of-life scenarios and went through the various she’eilos that may arise and how to deal with them,” said Rabbi Gewirtzman.
The emphasis throughout the meeting was on empowering Rabbanim and patients’ families to request treatment that may not be offered in end-of-life situations instead of blindly assuming that medical recommendations to discontinue treatment are the correct course of action.
“We have to be very proactive,” said Rabbi Katz. “When a family is told that there is nothing more that can be done, is that the doctor’s feeling, or is there, in fact, nothing more that can be done?
“Our experiences have shown that often, when doctors understand that there are logical reasons behind requests made for patients who live their lives by religious values, they are often amenable to accommodating those wishes, which is why it is important for Rabbanim to be on top of things and to make sure that the patient is getting the right care.”
The meeting was extremely well-received, with several participants reaching out to Chayim Aruchim to express their appreciation for the clarity with which the complex material was presented.
The event was greatly enhanced by the participation of Harav Shlomo Miller, Rosh Kollel of Kollel Avreichim and Av Beis Din of Kollel Toronto, who came for a 45-minute Q&A session regarding many complex end-of-life halachic she’eilos.
This was followed by a meeting between Rabbi Katz and Harav Moshe Mordechai Lowy, Rav of the Agudah of Toronto, to further elaborate on the local kehillah’s needs.
“It is important that we continue educating the community to ask the relevant halachic questions in end-of-life situations,” said Rabbi Katz.
“Especially with the current climate in medicine, it is crucial that we don’t fall into the trap of taking the medical community’s approach as final, because our values and those of society at large often differ.”