Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport
I want to say something about my father-in-law [Rav Moshe Tendler]. Something should be known. Everything Rav Moshe [Feinstein] knew about medicine and halacha he learned, he asked and found out and sent my father-in-law to find out and my father-in-law was his trusted first of all the facts of halacha as he mentions in many, many places in his ktovim [writings], and anyone that knew Rav Moshe even a slight bit knew that he could not be manipulated. He had very clear and incisive mind and he understood things very fast – instantly – and he had total recollection. So no one could maneuver or manipulate him, so whatever Moshe wrote, whether people oppose it or not, it was Rav Moshe’s ideas and Moshe’s ruling and nothing else.
The idea of what was later called the Apnea test, I heard myself from Rav Moshe, that once we know that the person’s spontaneous breath stopped, this is considered to be death, this I heard from Moshe himself. The idea of the brain death, this I saw when Rav Moshe wrote it and I called Rav Moshe twice to understand exactly what he wrote and he verified, he explained to me what he wrote in this tshuva, that when the brain is destroyed it is equivalent to the severing of the head. Because the head does not mean the skull, if we’re talking about the living function of the head, we are talking about the brain. This was the thing of the brain death, Rav Moshe’s agreement to brain death.
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.
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