From the July 21, 2006 Wall Street Journal:
A medical resident — we called her “Dr. Death” — at the Intensive Care Unit at Long Island’s North Shore Hospital chased us down the hallway.
“Your husband wants to die,” she told my mother, again. Just minutes before I had asked her to leave us alone.
“He can’t even talk,” I reminded her.
“He motioned with his hands when we tried to put in the feeding tube,” she said.
… A new resident appeared the next day, this one a bit more diplomatic but again urging us to allow my father to “die with dignity.” And the next day came yet another, who opened with the words, “We’re getting mixed messages from your family… [My father] was not in a “persistent vegetative state” (itself a phrase subject to broad interpretation), that magic point at which family members are required to pull the plug — or risk the accusation that they are right-wing Christians.
I complained about all the death-with-dignity pressure to my father’s doctor, an Orthodox Jew, who said that his religion forbids the termination of care but that he would be perfectly willing to “look the other way” if we wanted my father to die. We didn’t. Then a light bulb went off in my head. We could devise a strategy to fend off the death-happy residents: We would tell them we were Orthodox Jews.
My little ruse worked. During the few days after I announced this faux fact, it was as though an invisible fence had been drawn around my mother, my sister and me.…
Though my father was born to an Orthodox Jewish family, he is an avowed atheist who long ago had rejected his parents’ ways. As I sat in the ICU…the irony struck me: My father, who had long ago rejected Orthodox Judaism, was now under its protection.
As though to confirm this, there came a series of miracles. Just a week after he was rushed to ICU, my father was pronounced well enough to be moved out of the unit … A day later he was off the respirator…He still mostly slept, but then he began to awaken for minutes at a time… A day later, we walked in to find him sitting upright in a chair, reading the New York Times.
I’ve never been one of those Jews who makes facial contortions at the mere mention of the Christian Right; I actually agree with them on some matters. And this experience with my father has given me a new appreciation for the fight many evangelicals have waged against euthanasia.…
I would add Agudath Israel of America and the RCA have done some very good work on this as well. So have Dr. Fred Rosner, Marvin Schick, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, and Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich.
[Hat tip: Professor Gershon M. Ahmed.]