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Nidah 44

  1. HALACHAH: BRAIN DEATH DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS A HALACHIC RULING! IT IS PRESENTED MERELY TO DRAW ATTENTION TO CERTAIN HALACHIC ISSUES, WHICH ARE THE EXCLUSIVE DOMAIN OF THE GEDOLEI HA'DOR The Gemara explains that a fetus which kicks inside the womb is not necessarily alive. If its life-source is severed (i.e., its mother has died), then its movement is no more a sign of life than the twitching of the severed tail of a lizard. Similarly, the Mishnah in Ohalos (1:6) tells us, "A person is not Metamei until he is dead. Even if his veins are cut, even if he is about to die, he is not Metamei... However, if his head was severed, even if there is movement in his body he is considered to be dead, and is Metamei." It is clear from the Mishnah that although, generally, motion can be taken as an indication that a person is still alive, nevertheless if the motion does not stem from brain signals, it is not a sign of life.

    Based on this, Harav Gedaliah Rabinowitz (Halachah u'Refu'ah, vol. 3, p. 109) explains that there are three different situations which may be classified as death:

    1. Total brain death.
    2. If the connection between the brain and the body has been severed.
    3. When brain function is so low that the body's movements cannot be attributed to the brain's signals.

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