I, for one, welcome our new robo-rabbi terminator overlords

Judaism is so awesome -- it's the only religion composed entirely of loopholes!

Israelis to be allowed euthanasia by machine

Machines will perform euthanasia on terminally ill patients in Israel under legislation devised not to offend Jewish law, which forbids people taking human life.

A special timer will be fitted to a patient's respirator which will sound an alarm 12 hours before turning it off. Normally, carers would override the alarm and keep the respirator turned on but, if various stringent conditions are met, including the giving of consent by the patient or legal guardian, the alarm would not be overridden.

Similar timing devices, known as Sabbath clocks, are used in the homes of orthodox Jews so that light switches and electrical devices can be turned on during the Sabbath without offending religious strictures.

"The point was that it is wrong, under Jewish law, for a person's life to be taken by a person but, for a machine, it is acceptable," a parliamentary spokesman said. "A man would not be able to shorten human life but a machine can."

Putting the "dead man" back in "dead man switch"!

Tags: ,

64 Responses:

  1. kakaze says:

    Okay, the whole timed euthanasia thing I could care less about, but I want to know how using a "sabbath" clock to turn on your lights and TV and all that crap isn't a vilation of the religion?

    I'm glad they're able to treat it so lightly.

    • avva says:

      The point is that you personally aren't doing anything (with your hands, etc.) during Sabbath to create electricity. You set your Sabbath clock to turn lights on and off in various rooms, bathroom and so on in pre-set time periods, then during Sabbath *you* do nothing.

      • kehoea says:

        ... then during Sabbath *you* do nothing.

        Except brim over with impatience when the pre-set time period doesn't accord with your mood on the day, or seethe with annoyance when the Sabbath clock breaks, which it inevitably will. And that's definitely better than operating machinery. Ah, good old religious extremism, bless its cancerous illogic.

      • kakaze says:

        But you did personally do something when you set the timer; regardless of whether or not the timer was set the day before or the week before. Your action in setting the timer has cause the light to turn on thus you were the one who turned the light on.

        You did something even if you didn't do it right then and there.

        • hawke666 says:

          Right, but the point is that you didn't do it during the sabbath. The action you took was outside the sabbath, even if it caused events to happen during the sabbath.

          • kakaze says:

            Well that's just playing with semantics.

            • hawke666 says:

              Sort of. But apparently the rules say that you can't make fire during the sabbath, not that fire can't be made during the sabbath.

              As long as you don't interrupt your contemplation of God to make the fire, it's OK.

              Besides, playing with semantics is one of the best ways to find loopholes. And loopholes enable people to actually get things done even when the rules are ridiculous and inflexible.

              • citizenx says:

                But the rules aren't inherently ridiculous and inflexible. The people made them that way through hundreds and hundreds of years of discussion. Then (and this is the best part), they turned around and spent just as much time (if not more) finding ways around all the rules they made.

                Judaism! Tradition! IF I WERE A RICH MAN!

    • sethg_prime says:

      I have heard (although I haven't seen a primary source) that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the big-name Orthodox rabbis of the late 20th century, was generally uncomfortable with Shabbat timers, and permitted using them for lights simply because if he forbade them, nobody would listen to him.

      Speaking as an Orthodox Jew, I don't know anyone in my community who uses a Shabbat timer to turn on a TV. I would agree that using a timer that way would violate the spirit of Shabbat, if not the letter of the law.

      • And "though shalt not stand idly by while thy neighbor's blood is spilt" ... aren't observant Jews supposed to intervene, even breaking the Sabbath if necessary, to save a human life?

      • purrfectmess says:

        Speaking as an Orthodox Jew, I don't know anyone in my community who uses a Shabbat timer to turn on a TV.

        When I was in college, the Orthodox girl across the hall from me would ask her roommate, on Fridays, to turn the television on, on Saturdays, so that she could watch the football games. That always seemed so... sleazy to me.

    • The purpose of sabbath is to pause and reflect upon God and the Torah. The limited number of steps you are allowed to take, the prohibition on making fire (electricity), the prohibition on work in general are all designed to remove everything from that day but the reflection on God and the Torah. The fact that lights are on or off is not the issue; the issue is whether you stopped doing what you were supposed to be doing to turn on or off the lights.

      That said, I wonder if shooting someone with a gun counts as murder now. I just pulled the trigger and the machine did the rest.

      • iota says:

        You might want to think of picking up one of those new Sabbath Trigger Timers... you just set it to fire your gun at a certain time the next day and it takes care of the rest, all while you are contemplating the Torah.

      • ciphergoth says:

        Supposing your Shabbat timer breaks, and you're in the dark - is it more distracting to turn on the light yourself, or to keep bumping into things in the darkness?

        • I assume you could use some of your unallocated steps to walk outside or to a window. If it is dark already then it isn't Sabbath anymore (Jewish days run from sundown to sundown).

          Being less flipant, the darkness may even be an aid since you will have less to distract you from God's glory.

          • ciphergoth says:

            It's the middle of the night. You awake with the urgent need to urinate. The hallway is covered in toys; difficult and dangerous to navigate in the dark.

            Are you really telling me that it is a universal truth that putting up with the nearly unbearable pressure on your bladder, or tripping over the children's toys scattered over the hallway and injuring yourself, will be less of a distraction from God's glory than just turning on the light and going to the loo? Or that waking up someone non-Jewish and asking them to do it is somehow less of a distraction?

            If this is such a great strategy for non-distraction, how come it's only ever employed by people observing the Shabbat? Do you really imagine that God thought "What rules can I make that would minimize distraction on the Shabbat" and that these are the rules he would have come up with if he had?

            Boggle, boggle, boggle.

          • wisn says:

            You are in a dark room. You are sitting in a chair.

            > CHECK CLOCK

            It is 8:30 PM, evening of the Sabbath.

            > READ TORAH

            You can't read the Torah. The light is out.

            > S

            There is a thing in your way.

            > KICK THING

            The thing makes a hollow clank and you stub your toe.

            You are in pain.


            It is difficult to contemplate the Torah.

            You are in pain.
            You feel pressure in your bladder.

            > S

            You open the door...

            The hallway is dark.

            You are in pain.
            You feel pressure in your bladder.

            ...and so on.

      • kakaze says:

        If god honestly cares about such trivial things as the number of steps you take and not making fire-what do you do if you're jewish and live in Greenland?-then he's not a very good god.

        • I don't think the Jews claim that their book is the direct word of God. The Torah is made up of the writings of Rabbis. Think of them as the legislature/lawyers and God as the judge and things start to make sense. There is an end goal that is holy and just that is trying to be reached by flawed creations making rules for each other.

          • citizenx says:

            It's the later parts of the tanakh (old testament) that are the writings. The torah, the first five books, are quite holy. It was a blessing to touch the scroll, the letters themselves should not be profaned by touch, that sort of thing.

            You may be thinking of the Talmud, which is largely commentary from various rabbis.

  2. pauraque says:

    Er. I guess we're not worrying about the spirit of the law on that one.

  3. baconmonkey says:

    while I'm all for people being in control of the living and ending of their lives, one could make all kinds of arguments about machines like Guns taking lives. "I didn't kill him, I just failed to point the gun elsewhere when it fired"

  4. telecart says:

    Yeah, the whole sabbath clock stuff is hilarious, but really, it's just put into legislation that which was already practiced, and is practiced in most of the west - - passive euthanasia, i.e. denying treatment, in compared with actively ending a patients life.

    But yeah, I never got the sabbath clock thing.
    who are you trying to fool? An omniscient supreme being??

    Religion is whack, religous people all the more.

    • cowbutt says:

      But yeah, I never got the sabbath clock thing.
      who are you trying to fool? An omniscient supreme being??

      Similarly, Islamic mortgages ("Right, so this 'rent' and the final payment just happen to work out the same as if you'd paid the going interest rate over the last 25 years on the initial purchase price?") and Catholic confession ("If you were going to be this sorry, why did you do it in the first place?")

      • kehoea says:

        I quite like the idea of the Islamic mortgage, because it eliminates the fiction that you own the property inherent in non-Islamic mortgages.

        Predating the reconciliation between the church of Britain and Ireland and that of Rome late in the first millennium, confession was public (in the Continental tradition)--that is, you did something wrong, and you were expected to admit to it in front of a crowd of people. Quite a deterrent, if taken seriously, I think. The sissy version of it since then is closer to therapy, and anyone for whom the prospect of therapy prevented wrongdoing, wasn't going to do anything serious...

    • Someone explained it to me recently this way (and I'm paraphrasing like crazy): God set down the rules knowing that smart Jews would find loopholes, and now when they use the loopholes God kind of smirks and rolls his eyes, proud of his little system-hacker children.

    • danfuzz says:

      who are you trying to fool? An omniscient supreme being??

      "Passover Cake." By my way of thinking, passover cake is right out, since it's not exactly a faithful reminder of the hasty retreat from Egypt. But eat all the saltines you want!

  5. telecart says:

    (btw, the Israeli equivalent of of South Park had an episode with a cool robo-rabbi terminator overlord)

  6. ciphergoth says:

    12 hours? I thought it was 108 minutes?

    • telecart says:

      4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42
      4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42
      4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42
      4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42 4 8 15 16 23 42

  7. ciphergoth says:

    There's a story in I, Robot about a robot which is built with a weakened version of the First Law, which just says "A robot may not injure a human being", without "or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm", so that it can work alongside humans in hazardous environments without carrying them all away all the time or something.

    When the robot investigator arrives and learns of this modification, they are seething. Such a robot can drop a heavy weight above a human head, knowing that they have the strength to snatch it away before it does any harm. They can then allow the weight to fall, allowing a human being to come to harm through inaction...

  8. sethg_prime says:

    I suspect this law was passed as a compromise between the secular parties that constitute the majority of the Knesset, and the religious parties that have crucial swing votes. Secular Israelis probably want the option of euthanasia in these cases and don't care about religious law; religious Israelis probably would not sign a DNR order even if there was a loophole that technically permitted it. This law gives the secular Israelis what they want but allows the legislators for the religious parties to save face.

    Given that the vote was 22-3-1, and that there are 120 legislators in the Knesset, I wonder who bothered to show up for the vote and who decided that they had, umm, other pressing business that day.

    • telecart says:

      We're approaching election season, nobody cares about legislation. This is the time where all the weird laws get passed.

      Most rabbis nowadays have a progressive view of the issue. Liek I said, this is jsut putting down in writing what has been going on anyway for years.

  9. ...since a robot cannot injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.


  10. wfaulk says:

    At some point in the history of modern ovens, manufacturers put in a safety/economy feature that would automatically turn off the oven if it was left on for twelve hours or so. This put a crimp in Jewish households, where they traditionally made Sabbath meals the day before and left them in the oven warming until mealtime, since they were forbidden to cook on the Sabbath.

    Since then, most appliance manufacturers have put what amounts to an Easter Egg in their ovens to disable that safety feature. On the first link I found, you have to:

    1. Open the oven door
    2. Press the "Bake" button
    3. Hold down the "Hour Up" and "Hour Down" buttons for ten seconds
    4. The display should show SAb On
    5. Press the "Start" button to accept the change
  11. inkbot says:

    Normally, carers would override the alarm.

    is the override: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42?

    • omni_ferret says:

      That reminds me, I need to go get last night's episode of Lost.

      ... Er, I mean, you are obviously such a geek for knowing those numbers. Yeah.

      • inkbot says:

        it was a rerun: that everyone hates hugo one.

        i know. i am. i am not ashamed. :)

        • omni_ferret says:

          I avoided even checking the listing, because I didn't want to tease myself; I had to be somewhere else.

          Two other shows I really like got pre-empted, I suppose I shouldn't have had any hopes for TV this week.

          Judging from recent incidents, I'm not just a geek; I am a flaming geek.

  12. bifrosty2k says:

    I know this is a stretch, but does that mean that its ok to shoot someone?
    There's that whole "people don't kill people, guns do" thing floating around...

    Guess I gotta move to Israel to find out :)

    • strspn says:

      Wow! This question has independently arisen three times in this thread.

      Guns are fire-machines whether they kill someone or not, so no, you can not fire a gun on the sabbeth unless it has a trigger timer.

      • sherbooke says:

        So there must be dispensations for legalised murderers AKA the military, right? On a Sabbath, we attack Israel and nobody's home? Someone has to man the radar, man the barricades... How is that little teaser teased out?

        I remember reading Al Qaeda working it's way through a similar moral maze.

        • strspn says:

          Police, healthcare workers, and anyone acting even incidentally to prevent the risk of life (e.g., people painting median lines on roads) are exempt. Under this theory defensive war actions are permitted, but non-defensive attacks are forbidden. The textual origin for the higher priority rule is at Deut 4:5: "and you shall guard well your lives." In context it means something totally different, but that's where the derash begins.

          One of the 35+ categories of melachah forbidden activities in addition to making fire is "selecting," which I always thought was way over-broad. Every choice is a selection. Go to the bathroom now or wait a bit? BZZZT!

      • bifrosty2k says:

        I think you missed my snideness - The Anti-Gun lobby seems to think that the gun itself is responsible for shooting someone, absolving the person/thing using it from all responsibility. So by using that logic, you could argue that you're not using a machine and yadda yadda.

        Yes, its absolutely moronic, but hey, its not my point of view :)

        • strspn says:

          The Anti-Gun lobby seems to think that the gun itself is responsible for shooting someone

          Just like those anti-nuke types keep a-bombs unavailable because they say the bomb itself is responsible for obliterating cities, not whoever sets it off.

  13. chanameira says:

    Euthanasia and Israel: Go to the Source (not the "Telegraph") and get the facts. Please visit my Blog for the truth about this matter. http://meiraonline.blogspot.com/2005/12/euthanasia-in-israel-part-3-know-facts.html

    • jwz says:

      You know, when you make a comment on my LiveJournal a full month after all other conversation has ended, it's clear that you came here from a search engine just to promote some agenda and not to have an actual conversation like the other regulars here.

      Go away.

        Mr. Smith does not consider it euthanasia or killing to remove a patient from a respirator.

      Mr. Smith is playing semantic games -- which was the entire point of my religion-ridiculing post in the first place.