Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Wieghing Risky Medical Procedures in Halacha

Melachim B (Kings II) 7:4: A group of sick Israelis who are quarantined outside of the besieged capital, Shomron (Samaria), tries to surrender to the Aramean army.  The rationale: if we go to the Aramean side, they might kill us or they might let us live.  If we stay here, it might extend our lives by a few days, but we will eventually starve to death anyway.  From this, we learn the halachah (Jewish law): Unlike most cases where a person is required to do everything possible to extend her life for as long as possible, if a she is facing a terminal medical condition and she has the option of an iffy procedure which might extend her life or might kill her, she is able to decide for herself which course to take.

(If, God forbid, you are ever in this situation, don’t rely on my Facebook post, consult your local halachic authority.)

My own unanswered question on this one: Given that the northern Kingdom of Israel had strayed so far from Judaism and into Idolatry, why are the sages so confident that they were taking the proper action that they could use this passuk (passage) as the basis of a halacha?

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