Life in the Balance: Jewish Perspectives on Everyday Medical Dilemmas


Course Overview

Modern medicine has brought us near miracles. It's also brought us some of the most difficult decisions we'll ever have to face. Are we obliged to prolong life even at the cost of terrible suffering? Should we legalize the sale of organs, such as kidneys, to save the lives of transplant patients? May a woman with a multiple-fetus pregnancy opt for fetal reduction, thus forfeiting the lives of some to possibly save others? When it seems that every available option is morally questionable, how do we decide?

Fortunately for us all, Torah and the Talmud are not silent about such matters. And this course will show you what they have to say.

When it comes to the ethics of medicine, we’re going to get real — in the most dramatic possible way. We'll discuss actual case studies, examining many possible viewpoints as we come to grips with the issue that matters most: What kind of action — or inaction — should we take? When should we take it? And when do we edge too close to playing G-d?

More intriguing than any fictional TV show, this course will prepare you for choices that you or a loved one may be called upon to make. It is also a fascinating exposure to little-discussed aspects of Judaism.


Lesson Outline

BRCA, Genetic Testing, and Preventive Measures

We all endeavor to protect our health, but we often question whether we do enough. Scientists have recently identified the BRCA genetic mutations (common in Ashkenazi Jews) that significantly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Are you obliged to test for it? And if you have it, how far should you go in taking preventive measures? Where do you draw the line between keen vigilance and pointless panic?

Prolonging Life vs. Prolonging Death

Resuscitate? Do not resuscitate? How does one decide what to inscribe in their living will? The value of life is immeasurable, but is the same true for its increments? This lesson discusses the important end-of-life decisions that we need to make today, and offers Jewish perspectives on dying with dignity.

Aborting One Life to Save Another

Couples undergoing fertility treatment are often advised to reduce the number of fetuses in order to save a high-risk pregnancy. May we end the life of one or two to save the lives of many? Is the fetus considered a life? This lesson discusses Judaism’s view on the status of the fetus, and the ethics of choosing one life over another.

Should the Sale of Organs Be Legal?

Permitting the sale of organs may significantly increase the number of organs available for transplant, potentially saving many thousands of lives. But what effects will this have on human dignity, and on the destitute pressed to sell organs to feed their families? Is our obligation to save lives a precedent to override these concerns?

Autopsy and Medical Dissection

Many states allow medical schools to use unclaimed cadavers for anatomical dissection. Is this ethical? Is it ever moral to perform an autopsy over a family's objections? Would Jewish law allow one to voluntarily donate his or her body to science? This lesson will examine how Jewish law balances the dignity of the dead with the needs of society.

The Ethics of Uterine Transplants

Until now, surrogacy has been the only solution for women without a healthy womb. However, a recently popularized new fertility treatment, promises to bring them renewed hope. This lesson addresses fascinating ethical concerns surrounding uterine and other non-vital-organ transplants and surgical procedures.





CLE for Attorneys
in most states)

CME for Medical Professionals
AMA PRA Category 1 credits™

CE for Dentists
AGD in partnership with Xcel Seminars

CME Accreditation Statement
This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, and the Jewish Learning Institute. SUNY Downstate Medical Center is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

CME Designation Statement
SUNY Downstate Medical Center designates this educational activity for a maximum of 30 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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