for forthcoming uk programmes of jewish or israeli interest

When are we dead?

last wednesday evening (24th september), 7.32-8.00pm, on bbc world service radio (freeview channel 710 or 107)
when are we dead?: the entire programme is about israeli law and practice, including the law of the dying patient (episode 5 of 6 in the the truth about life and death series)

“Huge advances in technology now mean people can be kept alive longer, blurring the boundary between life and death. This intensifies the dilemmas for doctors, patients and their families. Different cultures and religions have reacted in a variety of ways – from preserving life at all costs, to euthanasia, with many countries sitting somewhere in between.Claudia Hammond visits Jerusalem in Israel to explore how the religions there, shaped over many centuries, have adapted to medical advances at the end of life. She discovers how Ariel Sharon’s final years, ventilated to keep him alive, illustrate the pivotal role religion plays.

Jewish law forbids any act which could hasten a person’s death. So, unlike many countries around the world, Israeli law prohibits the withdrawal of life support, such as a ventilator, from patients who are dying. But the law also prevents ventilators from being withdrawn from patients who are not dying, who have been saved by modern medicine yet depend on a ventilator to breathe.

With unique access, Claudia visits Herzog Hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where patients lie in beds, kept alive on ventilators. Many are unconscious but some are aware of their surroundings. She hears from the families of patients, some who have been there for many years.

It is only lawful to turn a ventilator off in Israel when a patient is confirmed dead. Yet fierce religious debate continues about how death should be actually defined. While ‘brain stem death’ criteria are usually used, there are sections of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community who argue that the final heart beat is the critical moment, with huge implications for end of life care.”

(see also from our own correspondent: israeli patients on life support)
includes interviews with …
• professor avraham steinberg
• professor david linton
• professor charles sprung
• professor yehezkel caine of herzog hospital
(if you missed it, available at or…)

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