(UPDATED IMPORTANT INFO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE) A Washington D.C. hospital is seeking a court order that would allow the hospital to disconnect a 12-year-old Brooklyn boy from a ventilator and end the medications that keep his heart beating.
The Children’s National Medical Center says the boy is brain dead. However, the boy’s parents are Orthodox Jews, and their attorney says the concept of brain death is not recognized by Jewish law. Attorney Jeffrey Zuckerman says the family’s beliefs should be respected.
The boy, Motl Brody, was diagnosed with severe brain cancer and has been at the hospital for six months. Doctors pronounced him dead Tuesday after tests found no brain activity.
In documents filed at D.C. Superior Court, the hospital says its “scarce resources are being used for the preservation of a deceased body.”
UPDATE: Askanim (community activists) working on the case have reached out to YWN and requested that people contact the hospital and demand that they respect the families wishes.
Children’s National Medical Center:
Main Hospital Address:
111 Michigan Ave., N.W
Washington, D.C 20010
Volunteer Services: 202-476-2062
Public Relations: 202-476-4500
General Information: 202-476-3000
Advocacy and Community Affairs: 202-476-4930
OPEN PLEA FROM WILLIAMSBURG COMMUNITY ACTIVIST ISAAC ABRAHAM:
The efforts by Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, to remove a 12-year-old New York boy, Motl Brody, from life support are alarming and frightening. The parents object on perfectly legitimate religious grounds, and it is unthinkable that a hospital in the nation’s capital can react in such disrespectful and cold-blooded manner.
Motl was transferred to Children’s National Medical Center from a hospital in New York, where he was receiving treatment. The only reason for such transfer was the promise of better medical treatment at Children’s National. If Motl had remained in New York, he and his parents would have been protected by New York’s compassionate law, which respects religious sensitivities in such circumstances. Having accepted the child with the promise of better treatment, it is utterly unconscionable for Children’s National now to trample on the legal rights to which Motl and his parents would unquestionably have been entitled, had they remained in New York.
Motl and his family are members of a distinguished and noble Rabbinical family, and members of the Bobover Hasidic community which, for many decades, has been the largest Hassidic community in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. The Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Mordecai D Unger, and the Rabbi of the community, Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin, have expressed, in the strongest possible terms, their support, and the support of the community, for the Brody family, in this most difficult and traumatic time, and have urged, indeed pleaded, that everyone who is able to assist should do so in every possible way.
With the hospital now having taken legal action in court to cease life support, I call on every elected official in Washington and New York to voice their outrage at what is taking place; further, to take all action that is open to them, including the passage of emergency legislation, to prevent what is totally unacceptable in a civilized society.
I also call on all donors and supporters of National Children’s Medical Center to voice their outrage, and to make it known to the hospital’s administration, at the highest possible levels, and in the strongest possible terms, that their actions will have consequences, including forfeiture of support, both financial as well as otherwise.
The following article appeas on the Washington Post website:
The family of a 12-year-old New York boy is entangled in a legal fight with Children’s National Medical Center over whether doctors can cease life support because they believe he is brain-dead.
The dispute involves Motl Brody of Brooklyn, who was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. The boy has been under the care of the Northwest Washington hospital for about six months. His tumor grew progressively worse, and doctors there pronounced him dead Tuesday night after tests showed no signs of brain activity.
His parents, Eluzer and Miriam Brody, are trying to prevent the hospital from taking him off life support because they say their faith does not define death as cessation of brain function alone. The parents, Orthodox Jews, have retained a lawyer who says that the boy’s circulatory and respiratory systems are functioning, although with mechanical and other assistance.
“Under Jewish law and their faith, there is no such thing as brain death,” said the parents’ attorney, Jeffrey Zuckerman. “Their religious beliefs are entitled to respect.”
The hospital has taken the dispute to D.C. Superior Court. In filings, the hospital extended its sympathy to the family but said the boy should no longer be on its equipment, saying that “scarce resources are being used for the preservation of a deceased body.”
Under D.C. law, doctors can declare patients dead if there is no brain activity. The hospital wants a court order, over the parents’ objections, that affirms its plan to disconnect the boy from a ventilator and to discontinue intravenous medications that keep his heart beating.
But Zuckerman says that doing so would infringe upon religious freedom.
The case is awaiting a ruling from Judge William Jackson.
“This child has ceased to exist by every medical definition,” Sophia Smith, one of the boy’s physicians, wrote in court papers, adding that she and her staff members are “distraught at what is providing futile care to the earthly remains of a former life.”
“There is no activity in any portion of his brain, including the brain stem,” she wrote. “Ethically, there is no appropriate treatment except removal of the ventilator and of the drugs.”
A spokeswoman for the hospital, Emily Dammeyer, declined to comment on the case yesterday, citing patient privacy rules.
In court papers, the hospital’s lawyers wrote that doctors have no choice but to stop life support or risk fines and other sanctions. They added that the hospital tried to find other facilities to take the boy but that none would admit him because he is brain-dead.
“Continuing any support to this child eliminates any dignity this child has left,” wrote Kenneth H. Rosenau, an attorney for Children’s. “There is no religious principle at issue in this case, but a clash on the definition of death.”
Motl, a seventh-grader, is the third of seven siblings. His uncle, Yitzchak Halberstam, said the boy began feeling listless about six months ago. He was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive tumor and quickly had surgery. He never regained consciousness, Halberstam said.
Halberstam said Motl was “a special kid.”
“When you looked at him,” he said, “you just wanted to walk over and hug him.”
Zuckerman, the family’s lawyer, said he is challenging the hospital’s plans on grounds that the family’s religious beliefs must be respected under federal law.
Legal experts said that courts usually defer to the judgment of doctors in such cases.
“The case law is clear: Once you are dead, you are dead,” said George Annas, a law professor at Boston University who specializes in health law and bioethics.
Annas added that New York and New Jersey have provisions in their laws or regulations that make exceptions in similar instances for Orthodox Jews. The District does not.
If you have not yet placed a phone call, or emailed the hospital in protest – please take a second of your busy schedules to do so. (YWN has received credible information that the hospital switch-board operators were bombarded with phone calls and emails.)