|Preface to: Contemporary Issues in Medical Ethics from a Traditional Jewish Perspective: Essays, Articles, and Letters|
|Daniel Eisenberg, M.D.|
| About This Book
This book is a “work-in-progress.” There is still much work to be done and much material to add. It arose from the multiple requests that I have received for information on the traditional Jewish approach to a multitude of contemporary biomedical issues. As time went on, I realized that I had written articles and essays, or given lectures, on many of the topics upon which I was being asked to comment. Additionally, as the “answer man” for the Institute for Jewish Medical Ethics (www.ijme.org), I received many fascinating questions, which I believe are of interest to a wider audience. I have therefore decided to compile many of these articles and letters in one place to serve as a resource for people desiring a concise introduction to some of the fascinating medical and societal issues facing all of us.
It is also my desire that this book sensitize people to the relevance and all-encompassing nature of Jewish ethics. I have often challenged groups to whom I speak to find a single area of life, and modern technology in particular, for which the corpus of Jewish halachic literature does not lend insight. My offer still stands! To further this goal, I have included essays on the failings of secular medical ethics and an introduction to the Jewish approach to medical ethics.
Most of the articles are brief and intended for an audience with little background in Jewish learning. In these articles, I have attempted to convey the thrust of the halachic approach to a variety of issues without attempting to be overly technical. While attempting to be thorough, this approach precludes the possibility of being encyclopedic. Many fine (longer) books exist for those interested in a more comprehensive approach to Jewish medical ethics. Such books are included in the bibliographies that may be found at the end of this book and within footnotes throughout this book.
I have also included a few longer articles (particularly “Halachic issues regarding futility of medical treatment: Application to nutrition and hydration in the terminally ill patient” and “Stem Cell Research in Jewish Law”) which include a more in-depth analysis of traditional Jewish sources and should be of interest to both those with and without halachic training. When appropriate, I have also tried to footnote sources, allowing this book to be used as a stepping stone to further study. Versions of some of the articles have appeared previously in various publications or internet sites. Some of the many letters that I received appear immediately following the article to which they are most closely related. Both the letters and my responses have been edited for publication, both to protect confidentiality when necessary and to better present the questions and the answers.
I also intend this book be used by the multiple Jewish medical ethics study groups that have formed around the country that have contacted me, asking for a text to be used as a starting point for discussion. I hope that this brief book will serve as an introduction to the fascinating realm of Jewish medical ethics.
Daniel A. Eisenberg, M.D.
March 3, 2002