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July 14, 1978

Jewish Law and Time of Death-Reply

Author Affiliations

Rabbi Isac Elchaman Theological Seminary Yeshiva University New York

JAMA. 1978;240(2):109. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290020031009

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In Reply.—  My learned colleague, Rabbi Soloveichik, did not do his homework. The sources we quoted and conclusions reached in our article on brain death are indeed in accurate conformity with Jewish law. Reference 30 (Talmad Tractate Yoma 85A) in our article establishes beyond doubt that cessation of independent respiration, in the presence of other clinical signs of death, is the sole criterion for death. In the reference cited the Talmud ordains the cessation of all life-saving activities on determination that a person trapped in a cave-in is no longer breathing. The Talmud (Yoma 85A) states, "As soon as his nose is uncovered no further examination [of the heart] need be made for it is written in the Bible (Genesis 7): 'all living things who have the breath of life in their nostrils.' " The conclusion is obvious to all unbiased students of Biblical law: the presence or absence of heartbeat