Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport
“Pulling the Plug” Turning Off the Ventillator
[2 minutes 15 seconds]
What Moshe told me that a person cannot breathe on his own, the fact that he’s being ventilated, that fact that he’s on the respirator does not make him alive. Once he cannot breathe on his own, he’s considered to be dead.
Interviewer: But does the beating heart make him alive? This is the question.
This is obvious when you’re talking about pulling the plug, the question of 76, was talking about a person whose heart is beating. It’s obvious, if the heart is not beating, and you ventilate him he’ll rot in the hospital, without the heart so the body will rot. We’re talking about someone whose heart is beating, the whole question of pulling the plug is about someone that the heart is beating. There is no question about it, it’s obvious it doesn’t need saying.
Interviewer: So was it Rav Moshe’s position then that a person who’s in the hospital, and he’s brain stem dead and his heart is beating but he has no autonomous breathing, that the plug should be pulled?
That’s what he writes, that the plug should be pulled, yes. That you should pull the plug and bury the person.
I think it’s summer ’75, it was in Monsey, and Reb Moshe was there and I had the good fortune to be there. And Rav Moshe and my father-in-law discussed this issue of “pulling the plug” and I was fortunate enough to be there and join in the discussion.
Interviewer: and Rav Dovid Feinstein was there?
Interviewer: and what was the conclusion of that discussion?
As I told you, that you are allowed to pull the plug when the person has no autonomous breathing.
Interviewer: Even though his heart’s still beating?
Of course, we are talking about someone… I cannot say that I recall his words but it is obvious that you are talking about someone whose heart is beating otherwise you wouldn’t leave him on a respirator.