Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sylvia Sodden - Jewish v. Catholic Family Litigate Life Support in NY

Sylvia Sodden, 78, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn but converted to Roman Catholicism when she was just 20 years old.  In 2011, Sodden appointed her godson, Joe Arrigo, 53 as her healthcare proxy.  Sodden is now on life support.  Consistent with her wishes and after consulting with two priests, Arrigo instructed clinicians to withdraw the ventilator.

But, on Monday, Sodden's  sister Esther Feigenbaum filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to become her sister’s sole health care proxy.  “It is anathema to Orthodox Jewish belief to shut down life support from a person in Ms. Sodden’s condition … to do such would be nothing short of murder. . . .  Ms. Sodden, despite her mental illnesses, remains devoted to the religion of her ancestors and her family.”

Yesterday, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge stripped Arrigo of his role as health care proxy and gave it to Feigenbaum, citing Arrigo’s absence in court as part of the reason.  

9 comments:

Abdullahel Kafe said...

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laylahb said...

I wonder when Esther last saw her sister Sylvia, and how much she cared for and about her during the last 58 years. If Sylvia did indeed convert to Catholicism, her parents, sister Esther and the rest of her family probably disowned her, as they would have if she had married a non-Jew.

Orthodox Judaism does not allow for the removal of "life support," based on tenets of Jewish law written a long time ago. Orthodox Judaism also doesn't allow organ donation, but Orthodox Jews are the first in line to get one. No autopsy, no embalming, no desecration of the body (no tattoos, if you want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Poor Adam Levine).

In this case, Esther ignores the fact that her sister is no longer a Jew, but a Catholic. It sounds to me like Esther is trying to get back at her sister, and denying Sylvia her wish is one way to do it.

Ronn said...

Seems like an odd ruling. What legal grounds (other than abuse, neglect, or a refusal to honor the principal's known wishes) does the judge have in a case like this to replace a patient-appointed proxy?

Removing the duly designated surrogate just because he failed to appear in court only punishes the patient.

Thaddeus Mason Pope, J.D., Ph.D. said...

Yes, Ronn. Agree 100%.

But procedure often trumps substance in court.

For example, LAW & ORDER accurately portrays the law. The guilty often go free.

Anonymous said...

The problem in cases such as these is that there are many details. Readers rely on press reports that are often inaccurate, accidentally or deliberately. This case is a classic example. The sister has a much stronger bond with the patient. The former proxy had minimal contact. The patient always had contact with her Jewish family and always participated in Jewish rituals. The document was bogus to begin with because the patient was not of sound mind when it was written. Folks, please educate yourselves and then comment. Laylhab's comments are inappropriate and borderline antisemitic.

yahisar said...

In response to laylahb, I happen to know personally that Esther went to visit her sister a few times a week ever since she was unwell, that is, for about 60 years. She would call her on the phone every single day up until this past summer when Sylvia could no longer speak. She would always buy her things that she needed and bring them to her. I know this, because my mom was also close with Sylvia and would visit her. You base your disgusting comments on pure speculation, with no actual knowledge as to the circumstances surrounding a schizophrenic's conversion from their faith. Thank G-d you're not in charge.
I suppose Ronn did lot's of legal and factual research too to make his remarks. The proxy was not remover ONLY because he didn't appear, that was only a part of the reason. Besides, not appearing does say something...
I cannot criticize Prof Pope as he said nothing of substance.
I recommend research and thinking in the future.
Take care,
Y Ahisar

Anonymous said...

Sylvia passed away yesterday. In the end, life support was not removed by humans. It was removed by God, when God wanted. She was laid to rest with a traditional Jewish burial, just as Sylvia wanted. She was born a Jew,lived as a Jew,and died a Jew. She is now back with her saintly parents in Paradise. May her memory be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Where are my boots? I can only conclude that in this case, PHD is an acronym for piled higher and deeper.

dad37e1a-d21f-11e3-9fb1-5fe5fc66660c said...

I'm surprised that the entire premise of this blog post hinges on an article in the NY Post, a publication known more for its sensationalism than actual substance.

Without a shred of evidence laylahb maligns and quite frankly slanders Sylvias family. In fact, everything she writes is the complete opposite of the reality. but hey, anyone with access to a keyboard can write anything they want no matter how wrong it might be. That the moderator of this blog allowed it through speaks volumes about his/her personal biases, or ignorance.