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    Cosmetic surgery – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What is the Jewish view of cosmetic surgery?

    A. No-one, even a doctor, is entitled to wound another person. Nor may an individual wound him-or herself or engage in untried, risky procedures.

    However, to save life it is permitted to perform a surgical operation, including cosmetic surgery. This includes an urgent need to reconstruct a patient’s appearance after, e.g., an accident. The halachic authorities are also sympathetic towards psychological distress such as when an unsightly person has difficulties in finding a marriage partner.

    If however the surgery is out of pure vanity, such as when someone wants to look younger, it may be another matter.

    If you ask whether surgery of any kind “contradicts the Divine decree”, the Torah replies that the physician has God’s explicit permission to heal (Ex. 21:1). Cosmetic surgery is addressed in Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s responsa, “Ig’rot Moshe” (Choshen Mishpat vol. 2 no. 66, 1964).

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