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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Someone's there

By Rabbi Avi Shafran





What would we think of someone who looks down at the immobile rubble, hears some faint tapping… and just walks away?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The rubble doesn't stir; things are very quiet. But a faint tapping emerges from somewhere below. You shout "Can you hear me?" and more tapping ensues.


You have an idea. "If you can understand me," you yell, "tap once." A single tap. "If you're injured," you then say, "tap twice." Two taps. There's someone there.


The scene conjures the aftermath of a natural disaster like January's earthquake in Haiti. But it could also stand as a compelling metaphor for the discovery of a human being struggling to be heard though the rubble of a body that is just too hard to move.


A group of European scientists has employed a high-tech means of, in effect, hearing the tapping of a mind trapped in an unresponsive body. Four patients diagnosed as vegetative and assumed to be unconscious were demonstrated to in fact be aware, despite their inability to move or signal their awareness by moving in any way, even just blinking.


The discovery was the result of the creative use of something called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows cellular activity across brain regions. What it demonstrated was that the patients were hearing and thinking. And that they could communicate.


The researchers' discovery utilized the fact that when a person is thinking about active movement, cells in one area of the brain become active; when he visualizes navigating a familiar area, a different area shows cellular activity. The researchers asked the physically unresponsive patients first to imagine swinging a tennis racket and then to imagine moving through the rooms of their houses. The fMRI scan showed activity in the respective, separate areas of the brain with each thought.


That was impressive in its own right. But then the researchers posed a series of factual yes-or-no questions to each patient, like whether he had a parent or sibling with a certain name, and instructed the patient to respond "yes" by imagining playing tennis and "no" by imagining walking through his home. Each patient was instructed to concentrate on the "yes" or "no" thought-activities for a full 30 seconds, well beyond the range of any random brain activity artifact, and they were able to respond accurately.


The results were striking. The answers provided by the four patients, who were part of a tested group of 54, were all correct, demonstrating that consciousness can reside in a body seemingly severed from the world. Before fMRI, such an assertion could have been no more than a statement of faith. Now it is fact. Left for us to speculate is whether some even more sensitive future technology might one day reveal consciousness even in patients whose brains cannot generate signals detectable by current methods.

Letter from JWR publisher


No one knows what degree of consciousness persists in a body unable to move. But now we know that some degree can persist in some such bodies, belonging to people many would previously have thought of as something less than people.


Some still aren't convinced they are, in fact, still people. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Allan H. Ropper, a neurologist, warned against, in the New York Times' words, "equating neural activity [like that seen in the brain scans of the four patients] with [human] identity." He asserted that "Physicians and society are not ready for 'I have brain activation, therefore I am.' That would seriously put Descartes before the horse." Quite the punster, that Dr. Ropper; but the issue is most serious.


Writing in Great Britain's The Guardian, University of Glasgow Professor of Law and Ethics Sheila McLean doesn't treat "brain activation" as casually as Dr. Ropper. On the contrary, she assumes that patients like those who communicated their answers to the European scientists are in fact thinking. Nonetheless, she asks whether "if recovery truly is impossible, is it compassionate to keep people alive in this condition?"


"Frankly," she asserts, "the only thing worse than being in a vegetative state must be being in one, but being aware."


Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not. Professor McLean is too quick to discount the value of even such a physically imprisoned life. Is only our movement meaningful?


Men and women in extremis often find themselves facing the question of life's meaning. Not all of us at the end of our life-journeys will experience epiphanies, but all of us have the potential to be so blessed. And many of us, even if immobile, physically unresponsive and without reasonable hope of recovery, might still engage most important matters — things like forgiveness, repentance, acceptance, commitment, love, G-d — perhaps the most momentous matters we will ever have considered over the course of our lives. Are such vital encounters worth less than running and jumping? Is ending a life of pure contemplation less objectionable that ending one that includes physical activity?


And, as Professor McLean notes, "the consequence of a diagnosis of permanent vegetative state is that it can be lawful to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration" — resulting, of course, in the patient's death.


Back to the aftermath of the natural disaster. What would we think of someone who looks down at the immobile rubble, hears some faint tapping… and just walks away?

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JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.




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