The notion was so bizarre and horrific that Jesse Fink had trouble believing his own eyes and ears.
R’ Fink’s wife, Edna, had been hospitalized with multiple health issues. In addition to suffering from cancer of the small intestine, she was also experiencing liver problems, and as days went by Mrs. Fink continued to deteriorate. While doctors had put in a feeding tube because Mrs. Fink was unable to eat, R’ Fink soon realized that his wife faced far greater problems than cancer as he discovered that the hospital had made a decision to deprive his wife of both nutrition and water.
After receiving no plausible explanation from the nursing staff about why the hospital was intentionally hastening his wife’s death, R’ Fink met with the managing doctor to ask that she be provided with liquid nutrition known as TPN. The request was quickly denied, with R’ Fink told that his wife’s condition was hopeless, making her nutritional needs irrelevant. A supervising physician echoed those words, telling R’ Fink that his wife was “too far gone” to justify the cost of TPN.
Frustrated, desperate, and incensed, R’ Fink had no idea where to turn until he remembered an email his daughter had forwarded him highlighting Chayim Aruchim’s advocacy efforts in end of life situations.
Founded in 2011 to respond to the many calls that flooded the Agudah offices from those who found themselves denied treatment in critical medical situations, Chayim Aruchim, a project of Agudas Yisroel, has become a critical resource to the Jewish community. In addition to building relationships with physicians and medical centers to increase cultural sensitivity, Chayim Aruchim’s hotline is staffed by expert rabbonim trained in both halachah and medicine, providing round the clock guidance to those advocating for critically ill Jewish patients who are denied medical treatment. Chayim Aruchim is involved in high level government advocacy and successfully lobbies elected officials to draft legislation protecting patients’ right to pursue aggressive medical care. And, as in the case of Jesse and Edna Fink, Chayim Aruchim provides guidance and support to family members who typically have no idea how to proceed through what is often uncharted waters.
Reaching out to Chayim Aruchim, R’ Fink spoke with discharge consultant Leah Horowitz who advised him to transfer his wife to a hospital that would be willing to provide TPN. From that moment on, R’ Fink knew that he could put his trust in Chayim Aruchim and could rest assured that they would help him achieve the best possible outcome for his wife. When the first hospital suggested refused to admit Mrs. Fink, Mrs. Horowitz was able to suggest a second facility that would respect his religious beliefs and provide TPN. Over the next few weeks as his wife’s condition worsened, R’ Fink brought all of his shaylos to Chayim Aruchim, their knowledge, compassion, and support inspiring the family’s full confidence that they were being guided in the proper direction.
While Edna Fink ultimately lost her battle with cancer, her entire family was comforted by the knowledge that they had done all that they could to care for her and that everything had been done in accordance with halachah. The emotional support and halachic guidance that they received from Chayim Aruchim during their long days and nights in the hospital were a lifeline to the entire family. Even as they mourned their loss, they felt a sense of peace knowing that, with Chayim Aruchim’s help, Mrs. Fink was given the opportunity to complete her final days on earth as she had spent the rest of her life – as a practicing Orthodox Jew.
“While it was extremely helpful to have someone who understood what was going on, kept us informed and paskened shaylos for us, Chayim Aruchim was there for us in so many ways,” said R’ Fink. “They steered us through the process, all the while keeping the whole family on the same page so that there were no disagreements about my wife’s plan of care. We are grateful to Chayim Aruchim for being there for our entire family during this difficult time.”
Chayim Aruchim is a resource for families dealing with end-of-life medical issues. Halachic living wills, binding legal documents which guarantee that patients’ religious rights are upheld, are available at no charge through Chayim Aruchim. Download yours today at http://www.chayimaruchim.com/Medical-Directives/c-1-121/. For more information on medical directives or end of life issues call Chayim Aruchim’s 24 hour hotline at 718-ARUCHIM, or go to www.chayimaruchim.com.