Latest JLI course addresses medical ethics

Posted Thursday, May 9th, 2024

The Jewish Learning Institute is beginning its newest program, Decisions of Fate: a Jewish compass for navigating questions of medical ethics. Four-session classes begin the week of May 12 in the Greater Houston area.

Decisions of Fate analyzes ancient Torah principles and paradigms and applies them to modern quandaries. It provides sensitive guidance for the modern maze of medical decision-making. For example, what degree of risk should we be willing to take in the pursuit of long-term healing? Are we obliged to prolong life even at the cost of terrible suffering? Under what circumstances is an abortion a moral option?

The wisdom of our ancient tradition can provide immeasurable assistance in reaching difficult decisions with confidence and moral clarity.

Considering the welfare of body and soul, the course strikes a balance between profound ideals and practical realities, offering much-needed relief during times of intense personal pain and confusion. Its guiding values are keys to living a life of serenity and meaning, regardless of our state of health.

Lesson 1 will cover Judaism’s attitude toward healing. How far may we go in our attempt to heal or seek a cure? What degree of risk is acceptable in such pursuits and what health precautions must we take?

Lesson 2 will address the nature of suicide. Is assisted suicide a legitimate course of action for an individual who endures tremendous suffering? What form of medical care should be provided to terminally ill patients? The lesson covers practical spiritual tools for those facing end-of-life hardships and guidance on supplying advance medical directives to ensure a patient receives treatment that accords with their moral and religious beliefs.

In Lesson 3, the course leader will discuss whether Judaism considers a fetus a living being and under what conditions Jewish law might sanction an abortion.

Finally, Lesson 4 addresses the human body after death. Judaism famously lends significant sanctity to human life, but what does it say about a human corpse? Does the sanctity persist after death? Is it permissible to donate a body to science?

Decisions of Fate is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning.

All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple or other house of worship.

To find a location nearby and to register, go to or contact the Chabad location near you.

Medical professionals and attorneys can receive valuable CME and MCLE ethics credits for attending this class. 

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