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2012 Bioethics Group Program
Thursday, 5th January 2012
11:45am-1:15pm SJE Bioethics Group Steering Committee Meeting Farragut Square
1:30-6:30pm Bioethics Group of SJE: Selected Papers Independence DE
Program Chair: Jonathan Cohen,
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati
1:30-2:30pm Session 1: Dignity and End-of-Life in Jewish Bioethics
Presenter: Leonard A. Sharzer, The Jewish Theological Seminary
Topic: "Is the Goseis Dead?"
In rabbinic literature the term goseis is used to refer to an individual whose death is imminent. In modern times, it has become a halakhic paradigm in end-of-life decision making.
I believe that in our era, the term should be applied only to those “actively dying,” a distinct and recognizable phase of the dying process.
This paper will review the development of the concept of the goseis in rabbinic literature, analyze how this halakhic paradigm has been applied in modern responsa, and discuss whether it is an appropriate model for bioethical deliberations at the end of life.
Convener: Elliot Dorff, American Jewish University, Los Angeles
2:45-3:45pm Session 2: The Self and Other in Jewish Bioethics
Presenter: Y.M. Barilan, Tel Aviv University
Topic: “Self discipline within intimate relationship with the Other: the law and the virtue in Jewish ethics"
Christianity has taught that the Jews had lived under the yoke of the Law; whereas Jesus liberated humankind from the Law and taught by example the ways of the Christian virtues. I challenge the binary division between “law" v. "virtue" oriented religious ethics. Surveying mainstream rabbinic rulings on critical moral questions such as euthanasia and abortion, arguing that Jewish law itself directs the person to follow their virtue and conscience. Interestingly, Catholic teachings on the very same moral issues are stringent and formulated in legal language.
Convener: David Teutsch, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia
4:00-5:00pm Session 3: The Narrative Dimension
Presenter: William Cutter, The Kalsman Institute on Judaism & Health
Topic: "What Do Classic Texts Really Contribute to Contemporary Discourse?”
Richard Lanham once proposed that most people tend to look "through" narratives towards some external value or some behavioral norm, while paying less attention to what happens when you look at a narrative. Process over product, in other words, was urged by the UCLA professor, along with many others who have become interested in narrative ethics and law and ethics. But narrative study, in spite of young scholars like Wimpfheimer, Kraemer, Aryeh Cohen and Zoloth, and the elders like Nussbaum, Booth, etc., remains an elusive and sometimes paradoxical way of looking at "doing ethics". My paper will challenge traditional Jewish ethicists, to be sure, to examine the ways in which they have used narrative; but it will also urge professional scholars of narrative to acknowledge the limits of the search for clarity in the sue of narrative to arrive at ethical decisions. Above all, I will provide an inventory of "what happens" when one reads a narrative, to help us enrich our search for what is the "right" in bioethical situations.
Convener: Jonathan Cohen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati
5:15-6:30pm Session 4: Pain, Suffering, and Religious Meaning
Presenter: Aryeh Ballaban, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York
Topic: "Quality of Life, Pain Relief, and Presence of Mind: a Study of Nachum Ish Gamzu, Tractate Ta’anit 21a”
Judaism values the management and diminution of pain and considers it an integral part of the sacred obligation to heal. Yet, competing against this is the value of presence of mind, a component of one’s sense of humanity, mortality, and place in God’s world.
The hypothesis that informs this paper is that pain management and quality of life considerations reflect a struggle to balance and prioritize these competing Jewish values. My paper seeks to shed light on this balancing act. It does so by examining the narrative of and rabbinic commentary on the Talmudic character Nachum Ish Gamzu.
Presenter: Corey Helfand, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Foster City, CA
Topic: "The Permissibility of Medicinal Marijuana in Jewish Law”
The use of marijuana, medicinal and recreational, raises numerous questions in Jewish tradition as well as for medical researchers. Jewish law does not overtly discuss the use of marijuana for the purpose of the alleviating pain and suffering. This paper focuses on the Jewish legal attitude toward the permissibility of using marijuana medicinally including: (1) The origins of marijuana, its side effects, and the way that marijuana is viewed in the 21st century medical world. (2) The halakhic (Jewish legal) sources pertaining to using marijuana medicinally, precedent for herbal medicine, the requirement to care for oneself, and the halakhic sources pertaining to smoking in Jewish law. (3) A comparison between the use of drugs and alcohol: immediate and long term side effects. (4) Examination of pain management and quality of life.
Convener: Leonard Sharzer, The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York