Jewish Medical Ethics

Jewish Medical Ethics

Almost all forms of required medical treatment are permitted, and indeed encouraged in Jewish law, as the guiding principle in Judaism’s attitude to medical and health care is that the saving of life is paramount. This includes blood transfusions or the injection of non-Kosher products such as insulin derived from animal sources.

Life-Threatening conditions:

If a patient’s condition is such that his life is, or may possibly be in danger and there is no time to ask a Rabbi for advice, all medical treatment designed to avert the threat to life should be carried without question and without delay.

The only exceptions to this rule are forms of medical treatment that involve the death of another person.

Jewish law does have specific guidelines regarding the following medico-ethical issues:


•Organ transplants

•Potentially life threatening forms of medical treatment

•Termination of life supporting activity and machinery

•Genetic, cell and experimental treatment

•Fertility treatment


•Organ donation

Patients involved in the above procedures may want to consult a Rabbi, and may appreciate consultation between the doctors and his or her Rabbi.

If the patient is, or might be, in a potentially life-threatening situation involving the above listed procedures, a Rabbi should always be consulted before undertaking any of these procedures if this does not jeopardise the patient’s condition.

Non Dangerous Conditions:

A patient who is not dangerously ill should not normally be given non-Kosher food. Very observant Jewish patients may prefer not to undergo medical treatment (such as an operation) on the Sabbath or major Festivals, if the treatment can be delayed without any trouble and without affecting the patient’s condition.

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