February 26, 2024
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February 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Assisted Suicide and Its Exceptions

I was appalled to read the diatribe by Mr. Sharaby regarding assisted suicide in your December 17 issue (“Assisted Suicide or Assisted Homicide?”). Unlike the real estate agent/finance director, I speak as a practicing physician (I am a specialist in pediatric pulmonary medicine, and a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University at Buffalo) and one who suffers from a terminal cancer.

We have come a long way in treating diseases. Whereas 30 years ago at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia we lost 12-15 patients a year to cystic fibrosis, now more than half of our center has reached adulthood, and continue to do well. I have been through intravenous and oral chemotherapy, each of which eventually stopped working, and am now involved in a Phase I trial of a medication similar to the one president Carter received for his melanoma. Sadly, it’s not the same degree of therapy for my prostate cancer. But it’s helping, and I continue to commute to Buffalo two weeks a month to work.

On both sides of the exam table, physicians and patients/parents recognize that while many disorders are cured, some cannot be. In the latter cases, we all do as much as we can to maintain reasonable health and a normal lifestyle. Sadly, at some point in some of these disorders, the medications stop working and the disorder can no longer be controlled. In many of these cases, pain sets in, as do shortness of breath, recurrent hospitalizations and an inability to carry on life’s normal functions. For such patients, we add in palliative care physicians, social workers, nursing staff and therapists. The physician has usually gotten to know the patient over the years, and often will speak with the patient about his/her desires for the future. A living will is often discussed and written. I have mine, and it has been shared with my two oncologists, my cardiologist and my internist. My thoughts and desires are clear. I don’t and won’t need a psychological evaluation. Nor have any of the patients and their parents with whom I have gone through this. It is a carefully organized decision process. It is a process to be considered when there are no alternatives. It is a process of caring, of mutual understanding and sadness.

When I and others get to that terminal stage, perhaps Mr. Sharaby wants us to lay in and out of the hospital in agony, discomfort, pain, and with distorted sensorium and often an inability to eat or take fluids. If that is the end Mr. Sharaby chooses, that is his choice. However, I and myriad others, with all due respect to Dylan Thomas, prefer to go “gently into that good night.”

Michael R. Bye, MD

New Milford

Gap Year is a Personal Choice

Regarding “From the Desk of a 17-Year-Old Yeshiva Applicant” (December 31, 2015): Why not go for the year? There are so many wonderful options and one gets to live the dream and decide what’s next in life. If I had this now, I would leap at the opportunity.

I hear your argument but I honestly can’t necessarily answer your question without knowing more about you, knowing what “Modern Orthodox” actually means to you, knowing where you live, what elementary school and high school you attend(ed), what shul you attend and what your hashkafa is. What you aspire to do in life aside from just thinking that wearing a kippah or not is a make-it-or-break-it deal. These all factor in. It’s not so clear cut as one thinks… It’s not a “go” or “no go” answer… it’s an individual choice decision, albeit a difficult one and, Ezra, you should consider EVERYTHING and weigh the pros and cons.

Gemara learning, college credits, touring, army, chesed, look into all of it before you make a decision. Yes, you can make friends for life anywhere and go straight to college. Neighborhood friends, friends across continents and around the world, you can even marry a Sabra. It’s a crossroad in life, a milestone decision that only you can take, but one that doesn’t provide a this or that answer. I hope you’ll go, but either way, I wish you everything you hope for yourself and then some. By the way, I’ve never been to Israel and I wish there was an adult Birthright trip. So frankly, maybe I’m just plain envious.

Lydia Sultanik, Englewood

Torah Learning Post-HS Prepares Students for Life

Regarding “From the Desk of a 17-Year-Old Yeshiva Applicant” (December 31, 2015): this student fails to recognize that what he calls “the system” can only do so much with students until the age of 17. Learning Torah at a deeper level for a set period will benefit everyone and will help them navigate life later. It actually doesn’t have to be in Israel, but, somehow, that’s where we’ve all pooled our talented teachers and created a way for students from all over to converge and grow together. Even RSRH had a year and a half in yeshiva before he went to college.

And, yes, it helps to step away from one’s hometown and find one’s inner self. Isn’t that what Avraham Avinu had to do? Granted, he was leaving a bad place and here we aren’t (we hope!). But surely there’s something to be said about his stepping into the new and unknown that applies to all of us too.

Gershon Seif, Chicago, Illinois

Options for a Gap Year

Regarding “From the Desk of a 17-Year-Old Yeshiva Applicant” (December 31, 2015), I would like to say that if you’re right, your choice is easy. Want to stay frum? Opt for the Israel year. Could care less? Stay home.

Of course I don’t think the choice is quite so binary. I’m sure there are plenty of MO homes where the hashkafa of chinuch is sufficient to see their kids through college without the year in Israel. And if you’re not sure if that applies to you and you do want to stay frum without going to Israel, why not pick a college where the temptations are mitigated with Torah study, like YU? Or, take a year off and go to Lakewood instead of Israel.

Eli Willner


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