The Ethics of Saving a Life

The Ethics of Saving a Life

We are incredibly fortunate to live in an era where advances in medicine will mean longer and healthier lives for many people. But weighing longevity, happiness and health, particularly in making decisions about treatments and interventions, often gives us ambiguous results. Excessive treatment and investigation may interfere with the medical prerogative to “do no harm,” but by the same token, invasive exploratory procedures can yield critical information for preventing problems down the road.

Though they were written in a time when people didn’t live as long, traditional Jewish texts also have their share of legendarily long lives, like 120-year-old Moses with his “eyes undimmed and his vigor unabated.” These texts also have their say about what makes a healthful and meaningful life, and offer some moral and ethical guidance on taking risks. What can we learn from them?

(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. Dr. David Strouse is a cardiologist and electrophysiologist; he is Chief of Complex Ablation at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Georgetown Hospital. He gave this presentation at Bet Aviv on medical ethics of the heart on April 12th, 2024.)

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1 Sefer Hassidim #723; W. Jacob, American Reform Responsa #79.
2 Ps. 90
3 Deuteronomy 34:7


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