On Monday evening, February 23, over 100 people packed into conference rooms at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to hear Rav Asher Weiss address issues in contemporary medical ethics. Rav Asher Weiss is a world renowned Talmid Chacham, who serves as the Posek (Jewish Law authority) for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The event was the second gathering of the Association for the Advancement of Medical Halacha, the organization disseminates the teachings and rulings of Rav Asher Weiss, and brings frum medical professionals together to learn and network. Cedars-Sinai co-sponsored Rabbi Weiss’s visit.
During the two-hour event, Rav Weiss covered numerous pressing issues, beginning with physician-assisted suicide, which may soon be legalized in California. California law even now requires that physicians inform all terminally ill patients of their right to know about their range of options for treatment or palliative care. Rav Weiss discussed the question of whether, in compliance with the proposed new secular law, an Orthodox physician may tell patients about options like euthanasia, which are not in accordance with Jewish law. Rav Weiss did not forbid such conversations. In fact, he encouraged Orthodox physicians to participate in them, arguing that it is preferable for a religious, God-fearing individual to have these conversations with patients rather than someone who does not appreciate the moral and ethical issues involved.
After Rav Weiss explained his response and reasoning in-depth, as well as some corollary rulings, he proceeded to take numerous questions from the audience. The question-and-answer session touched on a wide range of topics, from fertility issues to participation in clinical trials. Rav Weiss also explained why it is imperative to have frum individuals become doctors, despite some of the halachic challenges associated with attending medical school and practicing medicine.
The audience, comprised of local Rabbonim, physicians, chaplains, hospital employees and community members who left the event enlightened and inspired to increase their knowledge of specific medical halachic rulings and Jewish bioethics in general, and to practice medicine in accordance with the dictates of halacha.