Chayim Aruchim Meets with Lenox Hill Hospital

Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, Rivie Schwebel, Dr. Howard Lebowitz, Rabbi Wajsfeld and Mordechai Biser attended an important meeting at Lenox Hill Hospital of New York to discuss end of life health care issues. It was the culmination of a series of meetings, conference calls and e-mails with the top medical staff at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System, which comprises some 16 major hospitals in New York State. The hospital system has agreed to revise their brain death protocols as a result of our discussions.

Under the new protocols, patients who are determined to be brain dead will not be removed from a ventilator if there is a religious objection from the family. The patient may be transferred to a different bed in the hospital if another patient needs the ICU bed, or, if necessary, to another facility. Mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration will be continued until cardiac death occurs in these situations. We consider the adoption of these protocols to be a very significant development. We are in the process of setting up meetings with other hospitals to advance a similar agenda.

What these protocols essentially mean is that the objection of family members to brain death as a determination of death will be accommodated, and the patient will not be removed from life support.

We thank everyone at the hospital system for their cooperation in achieving this accommodation.