Medicine, Ethics and Jewish Law – Denmark 2011

The fourth Copenhagen conference on Medicine, Ethics and Jewish Law took place in Copenhagen from 8th – 10th January 2011. The organiser, Dr Henri Goldstein, a Danish gynaecologist, had once again put together an excellent programme. British participants included Prof David Katz, Dr Simon Cohen, Dr Ian Ellis and Dr John Allen; Dr Kenneth Collins and Dr Ian Cohen were British participants who are now Israel – based.

Dr Simon Cohen’s poster display, relating to Jewish and Israeli medical history, attracted considerable interest. Another historical aspect was a moving talk about the role of Danish physicians in the rescue of the Jews during World War II, given by Dr Dan Katznelson, who was himself rescued as a two year old.

Participants were hosted by members of the Copenhagen community over shabat, and the conference was opened by Dr Fred Rosner, who is perhaps best known for his work on Maimonides. His topic was “Medicine in a time of war”.

Several of the Israeli participants, all of who were physicians with parallel expertise in Jewish law, gave two talks. Rabbi Prof Steinberg spoke about designer babies and the new genetics, and about transplantation and organ donation.  Prof Glick spoke about religion and public policy in Israel, using autopsies to illustrate the issues that have arisen over the past 60 years; and about the how “truth telling” had entered medical practice but that was often interpreted in a simplistic fashion. Dr Beni Gesundheit demonstrated his online educational programme about Jewish medical ethics, and gave an overview of Jewish attitudes to animal experimentation. Rabbi Prof Mordechai Halperin spoke on surrogacy and on abortion. Dr Deena Zimmerman spoke on hormonal therapy for observant Jewish and on the Jewish patient experience. Dr Cohen spoke about ethical dilemmas in his paediatric haemato-oncology practice and about Gaucher’s Disease.

One of the new features of this meeting was a panel discussion led by former Chief Rabbi Melchior, during which there was a lively debate about interfaith aspects of medicine. Participants included Rabbi Lexner, and a representative of the Danish Catholic, Lutheran and Muslim communities.

During the meeting there was an opportunity for Jewish physicians from Europe to talk about issues of mutual interest. The meeting heard from Dr Zeev Feldman, who is head of liaison between the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and Jewish physicians around the world, about efforts to increase visits to Israel by both medical students and young physicians. He told us that the 100th anniversary meeting will take place in April / May 2012.

Proceedings of the meeting will be published and will be available shortly from the Danish Jewish Community.


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