Committing to endangerment: medical teams in the age of corona in Jewish ethics

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Doctors have been treating infectious diseases for hundreds of years, but the risk they and other medical professionals are exposed to in an epidemic has always been high. At the front line of the present war against COVID-19, medical teams are endangering their lives as they continue to treat patients suffering from the disease. What is the degree of danger that a medical team must accept in the face of a pandemic? What are the theoretical justifications for these risks? This article offers answers to these questions by citing opinions based on Jewish ethical thought that has been formulated down through the ages. According to Jewish ethics, the obligation to assist and care for patients is based on many commandments found in the Bible and on rulings in the Responsa literature. The ethical challenge is created when treating the sick represents a real existential danger to the caregivers and their families. This consideration is relevant for all dangerous infectious diseases and particularly for the coronavirus that has struck around the world and for which there is as yet no cure. Many rabbis over the years have offered the religious justifications for healing in a general sense and especially in cases of infectious diseases as they have a bearing on professional and communal obligations. They have compared the ethical expectations of doctors to those of soldiers but have not sanctioned taking risks where there is insufficient protection or where there is a danger to the families of the medical professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Doctors
  • Jewish ethics
  • Self-risk


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