Pikuach Nefesh / saving a life is a Mitzvah that supersedes almost any Torah Mitzvah. Once – the great sage – Hillel was found almost frozen to death on the skylight of the house of study. Although lighting a fire on Shabbat is forbidden, those present were allowed to light the fire to save a life.
A woman in our neighborhood diligent in taking care of her elderly mother. She wanted to put her in a reputable nursing home – but they only took people who are mobile. She found another home to put her in.
Once her mother ended up in the hospital. She would go visit her mother daily. The fact that someone visits a patient gives more motivation for staff to properly take care of patient.
I don’t know if she knew about it then – but there is an organization that serves the Jewish public that gives halachic / Jewish Law advice from leading Orthodox rabbis. They also help to advocate for the patient if the family members feel uncomfortable for the care or suggestions of the hospital. The Organization is called Chaim Aruchim / https://chayimaruchim.com/ which means “Long Life” in Hebrew. Someone told me of the videos they have on their site that was quite disturbing revealing of what situations they had to deal with. Their phone number is 718-278-2446.
They provide 7 Do’s & Don’ts and other valuable information for end of life issues and pikuach nefesh / saving a person’s life. Once someone asked me if a person can be removed from the life support machine. I asked a Rabbi – he said no – once on it he cannot be removed for it would quicken their demise.
The Unnecessary Feeding Tube
Once the hospital told the daughter that they wanted to install a feeding tube for her mother. She responded “but she eats on her own! She doesn’t need one” They insisted that they put one in – they said she couldn’t eat solid food. She said “I will feed her myself! I will mash the food for her.” She asked the hospital to conduct a Peer Review to determine if she needed the tube. The hospital sent a Patient Feeding Specialist to review the case. After the specialist reviewed the case, they decided it was unnecessary. One day she arrived and saw that her mother had eaten chicken – having noticed the bone left. She then told the staff she doesn’t need mashed food either. They started giving her normal food.
Once her mother fell. The hospital decided to provide daily massage and no physical therapy. The lack of exercise and therapy – due to the hospital’s lack of action- caused the mother’s legs to weaken and become too weak to support her body. The daughter regretted that she also didn’t stand up to the hospital to provide physical therapy as well.
Leaving the Hospital
I have a friend that was sent ot the hospital for Covid. He stayed there. They took away his daily vitamins and medication and provided him with their own meds. He was so disappointed he signed a waiver to leave the hospital and be responsible for his own self.
We saw with COVID that many a time a Hospital may not have one’s best interest in mind. They are influenced by politics and money. Obviously not all of them but money is a powerful motivator. I heard that some hospitals – based on the fact that hospitals received heavy stipends for COVID patients – they attributed most deaths to COVID.
Many people died in COVID due to political decisions. The politicians didn’t want to use methods proven to cure. Some died because the staff was not properly trained to administer medicine or use machines.
Knowing Their Goals
Halacha / Torah law is superior to any ethical system. Torah is the only divinely given law that was given before millions of witnesses. Man can err. G-d cannot. Thus when ethical problems arise we rely not on ethical committees – we rely on a higher authority – the words of Hash-m as brought by the Torah.
Ethical committees decisions – which are decided by men & women – may be antithesis to Torah. A hospice is a care system that helps a patient to not experience pain. The Torah’s objective when dealing with life is to extend the life of a person as long as possible. Thus a hospice might choose to provide less pain to a patient even if this medication – like morphine – may shorten their life. So if a person’s loved one is under hospice care or hospital care – the relative must be proactive to assure that the patient’s life is of utmost priority.
The Untrained Respirator Staff
I remember, many years ago, my father of blessed memory was in the hospital. Not knowing better – we agreed to allow the hospital to do as they suggested and have him hooked up to a ventilator. I don’t know if he needed it or not – but we were more or less naive. One of the last words of my father regarding the ventilator was “I am Exausted.” I don’t know if his disease or the respirator was the cause of death till today. Unfortunately that also happened during covid.
Suggestions for the Prudent
Before sending someone to the hospital – check the reputation of the hospital. I thought it would be good if the law would require hospitals to publish monthly statistics – like patients seen – for which illness or ailment. How many recovered. How much time each patient stayed. Percentage of Cesarians Sections per pregnant woman who gave birth. They should give statistics also for each doctor.
Removing the Plug – The Spiritual Repercussians
Once a secular doctor in Israel had a patient in his hospital. He saw the patient, using a life support machine, suffering. He felt badly for the patient. He had what he thought was “mercy” on the patient – so he decided to unplug the machine. One late night he unplugged the machine and the patient died soon afterwards.
When this doctor went to sleep – the Patient came to him in a dream. The patient was upset. “Why did you remove the plug from my machine. I was suffering but the suffering was an atonement in this world for the next world. I had several more days of suffering in this world to be cleansed from suffering in the next world.” I believe he had the dream several times. Finally the man started investigating Judaism and seeing what he could do to repair the situation he had caused. He started learning with different Orthodox rabbis and finally himself started following Torah. His Teshuva / repentance ended up being counted as a merit for the patient he unplugged.