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Rules of the Road

General Ethical Principles

by Laurence Buckman
medical ethics
medical ethics
medical ethics
medical ethics



Rapo yerape (Mentioned twice - only Hashem heals with one “rapo”)


Restore property (and health)

You shall not idly stand by the blood of your neighbour

Remove stumbling block from the blind

Put up a parapet around your roof

You shall not murder

Love your neighbour as yourself


1) Supreme Value of Human Life:

  • However remote the life, and however short-lived it is

  • A single soul is the same as the whole world

  • Life with suffering is better than no life


2) Man has a part in shaping his future

  • Is it his body to dispose of as he thinks fit?

  • I will put none of these diseases on you, for I am Hashem thy physician  (Bamidbar)

  • Shabbat: Man must always pray not to fall ill, for if he does will then have to show merit in order to be healed.

  • Rashi: Hashem teaches the Torah in order that man shall be healed - obedience will result in health - the Hashem-Israel relationship = doctor-patient

  • If a man smite...he must pay...And heal he shall heal / the doctor must heal / he will surely heal him (Bamidbar)

  • BK85a: From here derived that the doctor is granted permission to cure.  Why else rapo yerape?

  • Rashi: Therefore we must not say "Why does God smite and man heal? Rather God smites and God heals through physicians


3) Healing has Hashem's permission

  • Healing is a duty

  • All people have a duty to restore life and health


4)The Halachic Imperative:

  • And you shall restore it to him (Devarim) viz. his property (ass in ditch)

  • Maimonides makes no reference to "Rapo yerapeh" - since without permission there could be no medicine - this verse not only says it's all right, but says you must do everything to restore life and health.

  • Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbour (Vayikra) = spending money to achieve health.

  • And you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Vayikra) - covers lesser illness

  • Ibn Ezra disagrees - Asa story "He sought not to Hashem, but to the physicians" Says that this refers to physiological illness whereas Rapo refers to assault - you should only seek medical help for injury and not for disease - since this should be cured by Hashem.

  • Nachmanides says that the patient can reject cure and expect it from Hashem alone.

  • Maimonides says that you should be healthy to serve Hashem

  • Sanhedrin - No scholar should live in a city which lacks a doctor.

  • Afflictions which befall a patient will only depart through the application of a particular treatment given by a specific doctor at a specific time.

  • BM85b: the eye doctor of R.Judah Hanasi

  • All this means that the doctor is bound to heal, and the patient bound to seek help.  In Yoma: one who has been bitten by a snake must desecrate Shabbat

  • BK85a: injury needing a doctor

  • The conclusion is that Nachmanides view refers to the perfect world only.  Degrees of perfection affecting need for healing.



Who is your patient?

  • Nefesh lefaneinu

  • Rodef

  • The family

  • Anyone who asks

  • Roadside acts

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