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Pulling the Plug

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Through G-d’s work, the world we live in was created both spiritually and physically. However, it is very possible to intertwine the two in many different ways, even though they are completely separate entities. Regarding committing an act of murder, it is explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments not to murder, as well as being one of the three prohibitions that cannot be perpetrated even if one is being forced to commit the action via their own life being laid on the line. To be more specific, does the term “murder” pop up when one is dealing with a case concerning pulling the plug on a loved one?

Nowadays, with advanced medicine and a high standard of living, the human race has pushed death to the outer reaches of our consciousness, and we are caught completely off guard when death arrives abruptly. When certain life threatening illnesses occur, such as comatose, the option of life support becomes available to the patient in need of it. Life support is the maintenance of the vital functions of a critically ill or comatose person or a person undergoing surgery. In most cases when life support is in use, the patient is suffering and lives in a vegetative state for an unknown amount of time. Doctors are able to do tests that enable them to know if life support will bring the person back to life, or if it will not. This causes the famous question to rise: Should the plug be pulled?

With the knowledge of the test results, doctors make it a clear-cut case. They present the facts to patient’s families and advise them accordingly. The families usually listen to the doctors’ recommendation even when the suggestion is to pull the plug. This is because it costs a tremendous amount of money to keep their loved one alive, and the suffering the patient is enduring becomes pointless if there is no hope in the patient ever regaining consciousness and ultimately coming back to life. However, when it comes to Jewish medical ethics, there is an endless amount of possibilities.

Even though the doctors’ advice is to pull the plug, many Rabbis may advise against it. According to many Orthodox Rabbis, a moral dilemma is now taking place. On one hand, pulling the plug will benefit the patient as well as the patient’s family. Pulling the plug will benefit the patient because it will put an end to his or hers endless suffering, and it will benefit the patient’s family by allowing them to not have to spend an enormous amount of money for nothing as well as allowing them say goodbye as opposed to stretching it out for however long the patient remains in a vegetative state. On the other hand, pulling the plug would be considered cold-blooded murder. Although the patient is predicted to die, a miracle could occur. We humans do not control the world. We do not have the power to decide who lives and who dies, and we for sure do not have the power to decide when someone deserves to die. Another point many Orthodox Rabbis make is that every human being is put on this world for a certain amount of time. Each human being is given their time according to G-d’s will and not a random human’s will. We as mere mortals have no right to decide when another person’s life is over, and if someone does decide, and acts upon their decision, they have just committed one of the biggest prohibitions out there.

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