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Re: Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik

Rabbi Binyamin Walfish

Re: Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik

[1 minute  45 seconds]

I met with Rabbi Soloveitchik in 1983-84 to discuss this concept of brainstem death and Rabbi Soloveitchik told me personally that he accepted it based on the testimony of Rabbi Moshe Tendler who said that this test is conclusive concerning the death of an individual. And Rabbi Soloveitchik accepted it, and as a result of his acceptance I wrote that letter to Rabbi Silver. I’ll testify to that.

As far the Gemara’s definition of death, the Rav felt that it was the stopping of breathing that was the definition of death according to the Gemara. In 1983, or more possibly the beginning of ’84, after I got this letter from Rabbi Silver, I went to see the Rav on the subject. I called Rabbi Tendler first. Rabbi Tendler told me about the Harvard Criteria and the brainstem death and so on and then I went to the see the Rav on the subject. And I explained to him what Rabbi Tendler had told me about brainstem death, and he asked me whether Rabbi Tendler was certain that this test is conclusive without any doubt, and that it has been tested and has been accepted as conclusive proof that the brainstem is dead. I said “yes” and I offered to have Rabbi Tendler call the Rav. And the Rav said “No, it’s not necessary; if Rabbi Tendler says that this is so, he knows what he is talking about on these matters and we can accept it.” And that’s when I wrote the letter to Rabbi Silver explaining to him the procedure and telling him the exact language that should be written into the Pennsylvania law as the definition of death.

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