[Medicine, physicians and medical ethics in Jewish tradition through the ages]

Benjamin Gesundheit, Eitan Zlotnick, Avraham Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Medicine has always had a place of honor in the Jewish heritage. Since Biblical times, the sources of Judaism have valued the physician's activities and seen them as a partnership with God's deeds. Later, in the times of the Mishna and the Talmud, a model of scholars evolved who were not only learned sages but also had extensive medical and scientific knowledge. Their dealings with various issues in medical ethics were the basis for deliberation on questions that appeared throughout history on the advancement of medical science. The various sources from this period show the sages' sensitivity regarding the subject of human life, saving lives and the importance of the availability of medicine for all segments of the population. During the years following the completion of the Talmud, the medical profession was common among the Jews and they excelled in this field. Jewish doctors left behind a Legacy of values in medicine. Hebrew was considered a significant Language in the medical field and was cited in various medical texts such as in the book written by Vesalius, the "father" of modern anatomy. The rapid progress of medicine poses new challenges in bioethics. There is a need for physicians with extensive medical knowledge along with an understanding of ethical issues in order to offer solutions to new situations. Knowledge of the Jewish literature throughout the ages on a variety of subjects and the essential values which are their foundation can contribute to the modern discussion on biomedical questions. This is even more important in Israeli society where many of the laws are formed based on Jewish values. Engagement with Jewish medical ethics can help in educating physicians to have the ability to contribute to public debate and legislation in a way that would balance between the values and needs which an ethical issue raises.

Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)496-492
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2014


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