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Responding to Suffering at the End of Life: Lessons from Medicine, Law, and the Jewish Tradition

Responding to Suffering at the End of Life: Lessons from Medicine, Law, and the Jewish Tradition

This session was part of Judaism, Health, and Healing, a daylong Chicago Community Resource Conference addressing issues and providing resources on health-related topics that impact every individual and every family. The conference featured experts in the fields of healthcare, law, and Jewish studies.  

Responding to Suffering at the End of Life: Lessons from Medicine, Law, and the Jewish Tradition
Lunch Session

Presented by Dr. Sheldon Berkowitz, Sherry I. Brandt-Rauf, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, and Dr. James Tulsky.

Responses to suffering at the end of life entail a variety of medical, legal, and pastoral aspects. While end of life discussions are often focused on adults, this session also explores end of life considerations for terminally ill children. This session will focus on the nature of end of life discussions in contemporary America and consider how modern medical and legal approaches intersect or conflict with traditional Jewish approaches to the end of life. Explore varying definitions of end of life and suffering, considering how Judaism defines these concepts and articulates quality of life and understands pain control. The session provides an overview of state and federal laws related to recent end of life cases.

In this session, participants learned about:

  • the context and nature of suffering for dying patients in 21st-century America
  • Jewish teachings and traditions related to suffering and dying
  • whether the “end of life” can and should be delineated as a stage of life
  • various clinical and pastoral definitions of and approaches to suffering
  • Jewish approaches to quality of life, suffering, and pain control
  • the effectiveness and scope of coverage of U.S. healthcare law related to suffering at the end of life

Sheldon Berkowitz, MD has been a pediatrician for over 25 years and has been in practice at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota since 2001. He is currently the medical director of the General Pediatrics Clinic on its Minneapolis campus. Dr. Berkowitz attended medical school at the University of Colorado and completed his pediatric residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Berkowitz enjoys all aspects of primary care and is interested in expanding the concepts of the Medical Home Model to all patients. He has lectured and written on various bioethics subjects both locally and nationally.

Sherry I. Brandt-Rauf, JD, MPhil is the associate research scholar at the Center for the Study of Society and Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She focuses on areas in which law and medicine overlap, including the ownership of scientific data, occupational health, genetic testing, conflicts of interest, and the ethics of research on vulnerable populations. Recent projects include an Individual Project Fellowship at the Open Society Institute, researching the nature of the pharmaceutical industry's interactions with medical students and residents and, under a grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York, preparation of an information booklet for Ashkenazi Jewish women considering genetic testing for BRCA mutations. She sits on the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center Institutional Review Board and Pediatric Ethics Committee.

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, JD is a professor at Emory Law and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. His primary areas of interest are law and religion, Jewish law and ethics, and comparative religious law. He received a juris doctor from New York University and clerked for Judge Leonard I. Garth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He received his rabbinical ordination at Yeshiva University. Broyde is a member of the Beth Din of America, the largest Jewish law court in America, and served as its director during the 1997-1998 academic year.

Rabbi Broyde is the founding rabbi of the Young Israel synagogue in Atlanta and a founder of the Atlanta Torah MiTzion Kollel study program. He has published more than 75 articles and books including A Jewish Law View of World Law (Emory Law Journal 54: 79-93, spec. ed., 2005). He also has published a number of articles in the area of federal courts, including an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy on the impeachment process.


James Tulsky, MD is chief of Duke Palliative Care and Professor of Medicine and Nursing at Duke University. Dr. Tulsky was in the first cohort of Project on Death in America Soros Faculty Scholars, and is the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physicians Faculty Scholars Award, a VA Health Services Research Career Development Award, the 2002 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (the highest national award given by the White House Office of Science and Technology for early career investigators), and the 2006 Award for Research Excellence from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He is currently a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Transforming Care at the End of Life. Dr. Tulsky has a longstanding interest in doctor-patient communication and quality of life at the end of life, and has published over 140 peer-reviewed publications as well the book, Mastering Communication With Seriously Ill Patients (Cambridge, 2009). His current research focuses on the evaluation and enhancement of communication between oncologists and patients with advanced cancer, identification of clinical, psychosocial and spiritual trajectories of patients at the end of life, development of self-management interventions for patients with life-limiting illness, and evaluating the role of palliative care in congestive heart failure.

Offered by Spertus InstituteDePaul
University College of Law Center for
Jewish Law & Judaic Studies
, and
University of Illinois at Chicago College 
of Medicine
in cooperation with the 
Jewish Healing Network of Chicago
the Center for Jewish Genetics, and 
Metro Chicago Hillel, with foundation 
support through The Charles 
& M.R. Shapiro Foundation.

DePaul University College of Law 
is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. This conference was approved
for up to 6.5 hours of General Illinois Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits.
The cost for these optional credits is $54.00 in addition to the pricing at left.

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. This conference has been approved for up to 6.5 hours
of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits.
The cost for these optional credits is $54.00 in addition
to the pricing at left.