Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo Would Not Be Starved in Israel

Terri Schiavo Would Not Be Starved in Israel
By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief
March 23, 2005

Jerusalem ( - Terri Schiavo probably would not be disconnected from her feeding tube if she lived in Israel, experts here said.

A bill allowing "passive euthanasia" -- the removal of life support -- is currently under debate in the Israeli Knesset. In the first of three readings, the bill passed overwhelmingly.

But experts here noted that the bill would not affect Schiavo's case.

The pending "Terminal Patient Bill" would allow the removal of life support if the patient is terminally ill and expected to die within six months; is experiencing "great suffering"; and has "clearly requested not to be kept alive under the above circumstances."

Schiavo is not terminally ill and she did not leave any clear request regarding the termination of treatment.

"It's a very difficult case," said Professor Michel Revel, chairman of the newly created Bio-Ethics Council of Israel.

He said Schiavo would not be classified as terminally ill but would fall into the category of "somebody who is incapable or communicating with the outside world," Revel said in a telephone interview.

Nevertheless, he said, it is possible that after 15 years in a coma a court might decide in favor of a legal representative's request to disconnect life support.

The pending Israeli law is based on the principle that there can be no "active action taken to end the life of a person," Revel said. There is a very strict protocol of tests that must be administered to determine if a person is "brain dead," he said.

The Israeli law is based on Jewish law, which forbids helping someone die; but says if death is inevitable, prolonging life is not allowed.

An editorial in the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday also noted that Schiavo's case doesn't fall within the criteria laid down by the Israeli law and that the outcome here would likely have been very different.

"It is indeed hard to imagine an Israeli court ruling like the one in Florida in a case such as Schiavo's," the paper said.

"True, preserving life can sometimes risk prolonging suffering in a way that a patient would not choose. But our judicial system is right to be wary of an even greater danger, that of granting license for the elimination of incapacitated people, especially on the say-so of people who can hardly be trusted to have the patients' best interests at heart...

Avraham Ravitz, who belongs to a religious Knesset faction, supports a "passive euthanasia" law.

"It is very necessary [to have a law]. Without a law every doctor could make a decision [and] a judge is making decisions not based on [anything but] his personal feelings," Ravitz said in a telephone interview.

There have been several cases in Israel where terminally ill patients brought their cases before civil courts demanding the right to die.

But Ravitz said that the Israeli law would protect doctors.

Family members that wanted to dispose of relatives they thought were too bothersome would not be allowed to do so, nor would doctors be allowed to make a final choice for death if family members wanted to keep a relative alive.