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    Operating on your parents – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. A friend told me that Judaism doesn’t allow a child who is a doctor to operate on or give an injection to his or her parents. Is this true?

    A. The Torah lays down that it is a capital offence if a child strikes his or her parent (Ex. 21:15). According to the Talmud this applies if the child causes a wound (Sanh. 84b).

    The rabbis discuss what happens if the child’s action is for the parent’s benefit, e.g. letting blood, which used to be a recognised medical procedure.

    In theory this is allowed, though there is a preference for it to be done by someone else. The Shulchan Aruch does not permit a child even to remove a splinter from the parent’s hand (YD 241:1), but it is allowed if no-one else is available to do it.

    A number of rabbinic responsa are lenient especially if the parent asks the child to treat him/her.

    There is a psychological aspect to the problem in that the child may be scared to operate on a parent, but if the doctor is an expert at the particular procedure and is the best one available he/she is unlikely to carry out the task inefficiently.

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