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Practical Medical Halachah

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Practical Medical Halachah

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Practical Medical Halachah
By Fred Rosner and Moshe Tendler
Ktav Publishing House, 1990, 191 pages
ISBN 0-88125-336-7

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 28, 2010

Readers will like many of the halakhic (Orthodox Jewish religious) decisions and be bothered by others. Rosner, a physician, is a prolific writer on Jewish medical issues and Tendler, a rabbi, is frequently consulted for halakhic decisions.

The following are some examples. A living person may donate a kidney to save another person's life. Jews can donate blood to a blood bank. Animal experimentation is permitted. Sex changes are prohibited. The Sabbath may be violated to save lives. A Jewish doctor may treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath even if the treatment requires violating the Sabbath. Although carrying is prohibited on the Sabbath, a person needing a cane may carry it. Blind people may bring their guide dogs into the synagogue. It is immoral for physicians to give contraceptive advice to an unmarried girl. Artificial insemination is not allowed, unless the semen is from the woman's husband. Animals may not be sterilized.

A physician who is infrequently called for an emergency need not live in walking distance of a hospital, even though he would have to drive and thereby violate the Sabbath by driving for the emergency. A cohen, a descendant of the biblical Moses' brother Aaron, may not be a doctor or dentist, since American medical schools require students to deal with dead bodies, and priests are forbidden to come near the dead. Contraceptives may only be used for specific medical or psychiatric reasons, such as rheumatic heart disease. Autopsies are only allowed when specific questions may be answered to enable immediate modification in the care of patients. Embalming is prohibited.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on www.yutorah@yutorah.org. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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