The trolly problem at a crossroads : Halacha and Neuroethics.

Israel Belfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Questions of ethical consideration in the medical field benefit greatly from the discussions within
halacha. Conversely, legal-halachic debates in hard decision-making cases are revitalized by the ethical1
problems presented by medical situations. In this article, we will observe a popular ethical dilemma – “the trolley problem” – and the current research into its practical aspects. With
the aid of neuroscience, light can be shed on some of the ethically challenging medical-halachic questions,
such as allocation of scarce medical resources, triage decisions3 and other “either/or” scenarios4 with which doctors often must deal. In general terms, these questions comprise an
intrinsic part of the public health-care systems that must prioritize limited resources. We will first outline the ethical structure of the trolley problem and its use as a measuring rod for decision-making strategies and pragmatic ethical programs. Current research into this dilemma will introduce the growing field of Neuroethics.
A multi-faceted view of ethical problems (including: abstract concepts, legal and even "pedestrian" lay angles) gives the dilemma its deserved appreciation of depth and scope. Such a consideration is fruitful in a joint ethical-halachic conceptual scheme, and in an examination of halacha’s uniqueness as a legal and ethical system
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-70
JournalAssia - Jewish Medical Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Jewish ethics
  • Medicine (Jewish law)
  • Neurosciences – Moral and ethical aspects


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