At Children's Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a Brooklyn youth is at the center of a controversy about whether the hospital has a right to discontinue life support after ruling the boy brain dead this past Tuesday evening. The boy, 12-year-old Motl Brody, was diagnosed with a "severe form of brain cancer," and had been at the D.C. hospital for six months. After tests revealed no brain activity, doctors wanted to end life support; the boy's parents, Eluzer and Miriam Brody, disagree with that decision, citing that their religion (they are Orthodox Jews) "does not define death as cessation of brain function alone."
A D.C. Superior Court hearing is scheduled for Monday to determine whether the hospital will be able to take the boy off of life support. The law in D.C. states that doctors can declare a patient dead if there is no brain activity. "This child has ceased to exist by every medical definition," wrote Sophia Smith, one of the boy's doctors, in court papers. "Ethically, there is no appropriate treatment except removal of the ventilator and of the drugs."
The parents' attorney, Jeffrey Zuckerman, argues that ceasing life support would "infringe upon religious freedom."
"Under Jewish law and their faith, there is no such thing as brain death," he said. "Their religious beliefs are entitled to respect."