Health, Law, and Ethics

Jewish Values in Medical Decision-making for Unrepresented Patients: A Ritualized Approach

Jason Weiner


Determining appropriate care for patients who cannot speak for themselves is one of the most challenging issues in contemporary healthcare and medical decision-making. While there has been much discussion relating to patients who left some sort of instructions, such as an advance directive, or have someone to speak on their behalf, less has been written on caring for patients who have nobody at all available to speak for them. It is thus crucial to develop clear and rigorous guidelines to properly care for these patients. The Jewish tradition offers an important perspective on caring for unrepresented patients and determining approaches to guide care providers. This article develops an understanding of fundamental Jewish principles that can provide clear guidance in navigating this challenge. It applies those values to a specific set of suggested behaviors, one of which adds a novel ritualized component to what has been recommended by bioethicists in the past.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2021;12(3):e0023