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Dr. Ira Greifer

Dr. Ira Greifer
Pediatric Nephrologist
[4 minutes  4 seconds]

TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO

Interviewer:

How many students were there about?

Ira Greifer:

I think 7 or 8.

Interviewer:

And were there any other physicians there?

Greifer:

Yes. There was a doctor, a gentleman from San Francisco, who has since passed away. And another one from, from a…a surgeon. There were two surgeons. And they went into the details. And, you know just for the moment I forgot their names but I’ll get to you.

 

Interviewer:

Were they neurosurgeons?

Greifer:

No, they were vascular surgeons.

Interviewer:

Vascular surgeons.

Greifer:

Frank Veith was a Professor of Surgery and Vascular Surgery at Montefiore Hospital.

And Sam Kuntz was from San Francisco at the time. He later became professor and Chairman of Surgery at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was the first Afro-American to be involved not only in Surgery but to be a Professor of Surgery. And he  later took on a relationship with Moshe Feinstein. He was very influenced by him. And his thoughts. And the way he handled his life.

Interviewer:

So doctor Sam Kuntz was there, he’s African American. And you believed he passed away since?

Greifer:

No, I know he did.

Interviewer:

You know he did. And the other professor was?

Greifer:

Frank Veith. V-E-I-T-H. He was a vascular surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Rav Moshe Feinstein accepted the present ways of evaluating but not accepted all of them. He felt that it was not enough to have an EEG determine that brain waves were flat. He felt that still if the blood flow was still there there’s a possibility that regeneration of the brain. You gotta’ give it a chance. If the blood flow is not going to the brain and you had anoxic brain cells and you had a flat EEG, that the brain was dead. It was more than just brain waves, EEG; he determined a little more had to be done to demonstrate that the brain did not function as a brain.

In the discussions with Moshe Feinstein, at the time we had the opportunity to listen to him and understand what he had to say. He felt that a beating heart or a non-beating heart had nothing to do with life or death because it could be redone, but that he felt very strongly that if a brain was dead and it [would] met certain standards that were acceptable medically and religiously, that the brain was dead, the patient was dead.

I would state the following: that was, not only I, but the guests that were there that day, were completely convinced that Moshe Feinstein looked at the facts and felt that brain death was an exact definition of death as he determined it. What he determined was that they have to have the evidence of no function by EEG and no blood flow by ultrasound or without the Doppler methodology. And having known Moshe Tendler, it made it easier to get to Moshe Feinstein. And we could sit back and feel that there was some straightforward honesty in what was going on. No politics. Moshe Feinstein was not a politician. There were other political forces within the Jewish community who wanted different interpretation of that rule, law, or thought. And so they took political action more than-we felt more unethical action.

Interviewer:

How did you understand the meaning?

Greifer:

Well I understand the meaning because Yiddish had been spoken in my home. And I had some idea of what the words meant and where they were going. I didn’t know the issue-I couldn’t speak it though. Though I had some idea at that point in time; my father was still alive and he talked Yiddish. If I had problems with it he would–he helped me.

Interviewer:

So who was helping you during the meeting?

Greifer:

Moshe Feinstein. I mean Moshe Tendler, I’m sorry. Moshe Tendler translated for myself, Dr. Sam Kuntz and Dr. Frank Veith.

Interviewer:

Did you feel comfortable after that meeting to go ahead and recover organs from brain dead people?

Greifer:

Yes, very comfortable.

 

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