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Chayim Aruchim Intervenes as Doctors Deny Treatment to Developmentally Disabled Woman

Imagine this scenario.


A 60 year old woman comes down with double pneumonia.  She ends up  in a hospital intensive care unit where doctors refuse to treat her, claiming that her life has no appreciable value. It sounds too unbelievable to be true, or like a story that might happen in a third world country with sub-par medical facilities.  In fact, this story took place just weeks ago at a top hospital in New York City. 


What prompted doctors to decide that this woman wasn’t worth treating and that her life had no value?  It was the fact that in addition to having certain physical ailments, she is also developmentally disabled.  To quote doctors at this prestigious medical facility, “Why do you want to treat her? She’s not an asset to society.”


From their limited and very jaded point of view, the medical staff was only able to see a woman who was less than perfect.  They didn’t see a woman who enjoyed going to work every day, who looked forward to participating in the celebrations  of family and friends, who spent the Sabbath  with relatives and enjoyed the life that she had been given by the Hashem.  They saw a woman who had certain issues and proclaimed her to be of less value than someone who wasn’t faced with similar challenges.


Things like this happen with alarming frequency at some of the most highly acclaimed medical centers all around the world.  In this case, the family contacted Chayim Aruchim and we intervened on their behalf, explaining to them the value of life from a Jewish perspective.  They agreed to treat this patient and to respect the family’s wishes.  Sadly, this woman passed away , but the family has the comfort of knowing that in her last days on this world both they and the hospital did everything in their power to keep this beautiful person alive.  Instead of just fading away because of a lack of services, the patient died a natural death when it was her time to leave this earth.


One of the Rabbis who eulogized her at her funeral offered an interesting observation on how to define the quality of life. Who is to say that this woman, who spent her days enjoying true celebrations  as she celebrated Shabbos, Holidays and milestone events with those near and dear to her had a lesser quality of life than those who fill their days with empty pursuits that are completely devoid of meaning or purpose?


Chayim Aruchim is  here to advocate for the religious rights of patients and to enlighten hospital staff and administrators when it comes to appreciating the meaning of life from the Jewish perspective.  Let us hope that this experience will be a lesson to the staff at this well known medical center who will have a greater understanding the next time a similar situation arises.