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Full Interview

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein Full Interview

[4 minutes  30 seconds]

TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO

  

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

My father’s position was very simply that the stopping of breathing is—the point of—that’s death. It doesn’t matter if the heart is functioning or it doesn’t function. As long as he stops breathing he’s considered dead. That’s the way he explained the Gemara in Yoma, that’s the way he said they always did in Europe when the Chevra Kadisha would test if a person is dead or not. He always used to test his breathing and nothing else.

I’ll repeat again the same thing: If the breathing has stopped, then he’s considered dead. And that’s it, nothing else.

Interviewer:

Even if the heart’s still beating…

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

Right.

Interviewer:

Right.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

And anything else is, not a criterion, that’s all. Now if all those guidelines go with those guidelines, he would agree with it and if it doesn’t, he doesn’t agree with it.

But I’d understand, though, I mean once the person is dead and someone’s available to give the organ, why not?

Interviewer:

Right. Do you think Rav Moshe would have encouraged people to sign organ donor cards?

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

I doubt it, but I don’t know.

Interviewer:

In your opinion, what’s the reason that Rav Moshe’s opinion on brain death is so shrouded in—into mystery, or is it many different sides on how to understand Rav Moshe?

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

There’s only one way. I don’t think anybody argues that point. It’s very simple. Cessation of breathing. I don’t think anybody ever said differently.

Interviewer:

Right but when Rabbi Mordechai Tendler wrote up the Health Care Proxy for the RCA, when Rabbi Moshe Tendler wrote up the Health Care Proxy, many people came out that were saying not necessarily he is, that he has a real understanding of Rav Moshe. Many people were saying, were voicing that opinion.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

It never changed. It depends how you want to word it. If I tell you cessation of breathing, and you say, oh, that’s brain death, is that, I don’t agree with that; I don’t know anything about brain death. Quote me correctly. That’s all, nothing else. And that’s the whole argument against Rabbi Tendler.

Interviewer:

Cause he translated cessation of breathing as brain death.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

Yeah, fine. He might be 100% right. I’m not even disputing the point. But what’s the difference. He could say, this brain death cannot breath and therefore he’s considered dead. That’s the way it should be worded. He was very makpid that his words should not be changed. Quote him as is. He cannot breath. Nothing else.

Interviewer:

So it was just due to the wording . . .

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

That’s it. So I’m saying so, that was the dispute, the original dispute, there were people disputed to Rabbi Tendler’s opinion that brain death is stopping of breathing. That’s all. And if he’s 100% right, no one’s going to argue with him.

Interviewer:

So… so, you’re saying, in your opinion, if we could—if it’s proven medically, what Rabbi Tendler’s saying, that that would definitely be Rav Moshe’s opinion.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

Right, a hundred percent.

Interviewer:

But you’re not sure that it has been proven, you’re saying.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

I don’t—I have no idea. I’m not saying I’m sure, I’m not sure. It’s not my field. I don’t know. My father ZT”L’s position of what constitutes death is when a person cannot breathe on his own. It doesn’t matter if his heart is working or is not working.

Interviewer:

Would it then be your opinion that Rav Moshe then would encourage organ donation in that situation?

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein:

One has nothing to do with the other. If you’re talking about here’s a patient available for a heart transplant, fine. He would definitely encourage it. If you’re talking about putting it into the place— into the, ah, tank or whatever you want to call it, I doubt if he would agree with it. I can’t vouch for it, but I doubt it. I think my whole purpose here is just to verify the position of—stopping of breathing. And I think, ah, my services are ended.

Interviewer:

Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it.

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