Category Archives: Bio-Ethics

Herpes, Circumcision and Alzheimers – Was Rabbi Tendler Right?

A new study seems to show that the herpes virus of cold sore and metzitza b’peh (MBP) infamy may play a role in the contracting, r"l, of Alzheimers Disease. reports:

New research supports growing concerns that herpes plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

The latest work, announced today, shows a link between a gene and herpes simplex 1, or HSV. The form of the ApoE gene called ApoE-4 is the leading known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. And HSV is the form of herpes that causes cold sores around the mouth. More than 80 percent of Americans are infected with HSV.

The researchers, at the University of Rochester Medical Center, found that ApoE-4 effectively puts out a welcome mat for the herpes virus, allowing it to be more active in the brain.

“The data suggest that ApoE-4 may support the ability of HSV to be a more virulent pathogen,” said Howard Federoff, lead author of the research published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.…

HSV is a chronic infection that lives in people for a lifetime, periodically flaring up. The virus is usually latent, locked inside cells, but occasionally stress, fatigue, certain foods and even sunlight can spark the virus into an active phase that damages cells and causes cold sores.

The alert among us may recall that Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler suggested that herpes transmitted through MBP, which is  known to cause severe brain damage, might also adversely (or "sub-clinically") impact the brains of newborns, causing learning disabilities and even mild retardation. His educated guess may not be far off.



Filed under Bio-Ethics, Circumcision Controversy, Haredim

How Difficult Is It To Be Disabled In Israel? Very

According to Access Israel:

…95 percent of the cafes don’t have accessible bathrooms and only five beaches are accessible.

There are problems with post offices and stores as well." He says only 26 percent of 500,000 handicapped people are employed in any way…

This is despite years of pleading by Diaspora Jews and the intervention of people like Isaac Stern. If you were to check shuls and yeshivot, I think the number inaccessible would approach 100%.

There is no excuse for this. The number of wounded Israeli soldiers who are unable to go to shul or a café is heartbreaking. And no one really cares.


Filed under Bio-Ethics, Hessed, Israel

Use It Or Lose It

Responding to news of a new study showing moderate consumption of Cabernet Sovingion wine appears to lower the risk of getting Alzheimers Disease, Hadassah University Medical Center metabolism expert Prof. Elliot Berry:

…who has long advocated moderate consumption of red wine, said he recommended it for preventing various ills. “Even though not everything that works in mice works in humans, it’s wonderful, but I don’t want people to become alcoholic. People should not drink on their own and not before they drive; it also should not be consumed with a small number of medications. To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, one should also do mental exercise regularly – whether it is playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles, solving sudoku puzzles or studying Talmud.”

Use it or lose it.

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Filed under Bio-Ethics

Woman In PVS Aware Of Surroundings, Scientists Find

The New York Times reports:

A severely brain-damaged woman in an unresponsive, vegetative state showed clear signs on brain imaging tests that she was aware of herself and her surroundings, researchers are reporting today, in a finding that could have far-reaching consequences for how unconscious patients are cared for and how their conditions are diagnosed.

In response to commands, the patient’s brain flared with activity, lighting the same language and movement-planning regions that are active when healthy people hear the commands. Previous studies had found similar activity in partly conscious patients, who occasionally respond to commands, but never before in someone who was totally unresponsive.

Neurologists cautioned that the new report characterized only a single, perhaps unique case and that it did not mean that unresponsive brain-damaged people were more likely to recover or that treatment was possible. The woman in the study could not communicate with the researchers, and there was no way to know whether her subjective experience was anything like what healthy people call consciousness. The woman was injured in a traffic accident in England last year.

Yet the study so drastically contradicted the woman’s diagnosed condition that it exposed the limitations of standard methods of bedside diagnosis.…


Filed under Bio-Ethics

Stealing Bodies To Prevent Autopsy Permitted On Shabbat


…There is a case recorded of a Jew who died in a hospital on Shabbat and the doctors prepared to perform an autopsy on the body. Rabbi Chayim Elazar Shapiro of Munkatch (Hungary, early 20th century) instructed his students to steal the body from hospital to prevent this degradation to the deceased. Although a corpse is deemed Muktzeh and forbidden to be handled on Shabbat, the Rabbi of Munkatch ruled that for the purpose of preserving the honor of the deceased Halacha would allow transporting the body. (There was an Eruv in the area, and so the Torah prohibition of carrying in a public domain on Shabbat did not apply.)…

I imagine this ruling must be the basis (or at least the partial basis) for the current haredi practice in Israel.


Filed under Bio-Ethics, Haredim

A Moral Question

I sometimes shop in a grocery store that has a program to aid various charities and schools. You deposit your receipt in a box labeled with the name of the particular charity, and a percentage of your purchase is donated to that charity. Now the question:

In effect, a donor is confronted with 10 simultaneous requests for money. Among the schools and organizations that benefit humans, like the Alzheimer’s Association, for example, is the Humane Society. Can one, all financial needs being roughly equal, donate to the Humane Society, in effect helping animals before humans? Or must one donate to the organizations that help humans, preferably selecting those with the best track records and most pressing needs?



Filed under Bio-Ethics

Doctors of Death

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.]


Filed under Bio-Ethics, Haredim, Modern Orthodoxy