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Alternatives in Jewish Bioethics

Noam J. Zohar

Publication Year: 1997

This dialogue between the Jewish normative tradition and Western moral philosophy addresses central contemporary issues in medical ethics. Alternatives in Jewish Bioethics consists of a dialogue between contemporary, Western moral philosophy and the Jewish tradition of legal/moral discourse (Halakha). Recognizing that no single tradition has a monopoly on valid moral teachings, it seeks to enrich our ethical perspectives through mutual exchange. This is facilitated by a non-authoritarian approach to Judaism—a clear alternative to the implicitly insular, “take-it-or-leave-it” approach often encountered in this field. Following in the footsteps of classical rabbinic discussions, normative pronouncements are grounded in reasons, open to critical examination. The “alternatives” are within the book as well—the presentation throughout avoids one-sided conclusions, citing and analyzing two or more positions to make sense of the debate. These particular arguments are also linked to a larger picture, contrasting two basic themes: religious naturalism versus religious humanism. Concretely, the book addresses some of the central contemporary issues in the ethics of medicine. These include assisted suicide and euthanasia, donor insemination and “surrogate” motherhood, the use of human cadavers for learning and research, and allocation of scarce resources at both the individual and social levels.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy

Title Page

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pp. v

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p. vii-vii

The dialogue between the Jewish and Western traditions, of which this book forms a part, has been central to my consciousness from early adolescence onwards. It is a tribute to my parents, Yitzhak Zohar and Ora (Levin) Zohar, that they succeeded in fostering a home ambience of rich pluralism and strong commitments. Building on that foundation, ...

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pp. 1-16

Some people wonder whether there can be "Jewish ethics." Their doubts cannot, however, be answered simply by an invitation to enter a library and note the various relevant titles, or by pointing to the vast tradition of Jewish normative discourse stretching back across three millennia. Although they recognize all this, their doubts persist, ...

PART I. Authority in Nature

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1. Religious Naturalism: Human Responsibility and Divine Decree

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pp. 19-36

Modern medicine is often at the forefront of technological advance. a triumph of applied empirical science. Still. the goal of modern physicians is the same as that of their less successful predecessors: overcoming injury and illness. From a theistic perspective. this goal carries a ...

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2. Death: Natural Process and Human Intervention

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pp. 37-68

Euthanasia only becomes morally conceivable when, due to great suffering, it is against a person's interest to go on living. I In many situations, primarily where the person is unable to express his or her position, determining that it is best for someone to die is very complicated. But sometimes ...

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3. Parenthood: Natural Fact and Human Society

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pp. 69-85

Our discussion of naturalism thus far has focused on explicitly normative questions. The naturalistic arguments we examined sought to justify a norm by reference to some set of facts. The standard critique of such arguments accepts the posited facts while contesting the proposed ...

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God and Nature: A Summary

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pp. 85-88

The relationship to God is unquestionably central to the Halakhic normative system. But, as shown by the foregoing discussions, the specific impact of the divine on human affairs is far from unequivocal. The Nahmanidean view emphasizes utter trust and reliance; its ideal is human dependence upon God, whose ...

PART II. Religious Humanism

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Elements of Religious Humanism

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pp. 91-98

This section is intended as a brief exposition of the Rabbinic belief that human beings are created in God's image. This core idea of Rabbinic religious humanism is then related to the bioethical discussions that constitute Part II of the book. As a point of departure, let us look at a traditional ...

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4. Human Life. Human Lives: Assessing the Absolute

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pp. 99-122

Humanism, as commonly understood, involves valuing each individual qua human being, and hence implies a commitment to human equality.1 Certainly that is the sense of the coin parable cited above. Each individual is a unique reflection of the divine image, and in this is fundamentally ...

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5. Human Bodies: Long-Term Benefits and Symbolic Constraints

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pp. 123-142

From the perspective of medical practice and research, the human body might be viewed as a valuable resource: Living persons, however, are rightly protected from medically cannibalistic designs; this protection was a major theme of our discussion in the previous chapter. But when ...

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6. Allocating Medical Resources: Global Planning and Immediate Obligations

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pp. 143-152

In Chapter 4 we examined Feinstein's notion of entitlement, whereby a patient who should have been low on the priority list may, simply by virtue of early arrival, gain an exhaustive claim on limited resources. I offered an explanation for this in terms of a conception of the duty to help as a concrete obligation to a specific individual, as ...


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pp. 153-160


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pp. 161-165

E-ISBN-13: 9781438424873
E-ISBN-10: 1438424876
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791432730
Print-ISBN-10: 0791432734

Page Count: 174
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy