Is It Time to Rethink Brain Death?: A Rabbinic Colloquium

Date: Jun 14, 2018 - Jun 14, 2018

Time: 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Location: JTS

Category: Clergy: Continuing Ed


Sponsored by The Finkelstein Institute of Religious and Social Studies at JTS and the Rabbinical Assembly

It is 50 years since a Harvard Medical School committee published its landmark report describing the characteristics of a permanently nonfunctioning brain, now known as brain death. The idea that a person could be declared dead on the basis of neurologic criteria despite being on a respirator and having a beating heart was codified into law by Uniform Declaration of Death Act (UDDA) in 1981. 

Though widely accepted in the United States and most other developed countries, the idea was never universally accepted, either internationally or within Jewish thought. In recent years, some physicians and bioethicists have called into question the fundamental notion that people who meet the neurological criteria for death are in fact dead and consequently suitable for cadaver organ donation. 

Join your rabbinic colleagues and our distinguished panel to discuss the latest thinking on this critical issue.

Conference co-chairs are Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, MD, and Rabbi Elliot Dorff

Thursday, June 14, 2018
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.


Rabbi Elliot Dorff, PhD: Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University and a visiting professor at UCLA School of Law. He is chair of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly.  

Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins: Pearl Resnick Dean of the Rabbinical School of JTS. He is a member of the CJLS and author of the teshuvah “Contemporary Criteria for the Declaration of Death,” evaluating the validity of establishing death based on neurological criteria.

Kenneth Prager, MD:  Professor of Medicine, director of Medical Ethics, and chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia University Medical Center.

Leah Rosenberg, MD: Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  She is an internal medicine physician and palliative care specialist at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rabbi Leonard A. Sharzer, MD: Associate Director for Bioethics of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Alan D. Shewmon, MD: Clinical professor emeritus of Neurology at UCLA and chief of Neurology at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.


The conference will take place the morning after the spring meeting of the CJLS and is open to members of the Rabbinical Assembly and by invitation to other professionals in the field.

Admission is free but advance registration is required.

Please RSVP by May 15, 2018.