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A friend of mine has a medical condition. Doctors recommend a difficult surgery, which should stop the problem. If he does not undergo that surgery, his situation will deteriorate further, they say, and will severely adversely affect his quality of life (but will not be life threathening). He prefers to not do the surgery for whatever reason.

Is the person obligated to follow the doctors according to Halacha?

Please source.

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It would probably fall under pikuach nefesh, so yes? Does he have any medical reasons not to go through with the surgery? – rosenjcb Mar 27 '14 at 16:06
you need to consider their age, condition > every case is different. – sharshi Mar 27 '14 at 20:15

2 Answers 2

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 192:3 has this to say:

הַתּוֹרָה נָתְנָה רְשׁוּת לָרוֹפֵא שֶׁיְרַפֵּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא. וְלָכֵן אֵין לוֹ לַחוֹלֶה לִסְמֹךְ עַל הַנֵּס, אֶלָּא חַיָב לְהִתְנַהֵג בְּדֶרֶךְ הָעוֹלָם לִקְרוֹא לְרוֹפֵא שֶׁיְרַפֵּהוּ. וּכְבָר כַּמָה חֲסִידֵי עוֹלָם נִתְרַפְּאוּ עַל יְדֵי רוֹפְאִים. וּמִי שֶׁמּוֹנֵעַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִלִּקְרוֹא לָרוֹפֵא, שְׁתַּיִם רָעוֹת הִנֵּהוּ עוֹשֶׂה, הָאַחַת, דְּאָסוּר לִסְמֹךְ עַל הַנֵּס בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ סַכָּנָה, וְדָבָר זֶה גּוֹרֵם שֶׁיִזָּכְרוּ עֲוֹנוֹתָיו בִּשְׁעַת חָלְיוֹ. וְעוֹד, דַּהֲוֵי יֻהֲרָא וְגֵאוֹת שֶׁסּוֹמֵךְ עַל צִדְקָתוֹ שֶׁיִתְרַפֵּא בְּדֶרֶךְ הַנֵּס. וְיֶשׁ לוֹ לִקְרוֹא לָרוֹפֵא הַיוֹתֵר מֻמְחֶה, וּבְכָל זֹאת לִבּוֹ יְהֵא לַשָׁמַיִם, וִיבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים מֵאֵת הָרוֹפֵא הַנֶּאֱמָן יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ, וְאַךְ בּוֹ יִבְטַח לִבּוֹ (ברכי יוסף) (וְעַיֵּן לְעֵיל סִימָן סא סָעִיף ד).‏

Pertinent points:

  • A person may not rely on mircqales when it comes to his health.
  • A person is obligated to get meidical attention.
  • A person who does not seek medical help is (1) arrogant and (2) relying on miracles which is asking for trouble.
  • A person has to go to the best doctor available for his condition.
  • A person has to keep in mind that it's not the doctor who actually heals; he is simply Hashem's messanger.

In the following paragraphs you will find the laws of which Issurim are permitted to be eaten - even if the sick person's life is not in danger. If one would be allowed to decide to simply live with it then why would Halacha permit one to eat non-Kosher food to heal oneself.

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I was not referring to pikuach nefesh – ray Mar 30 '14 at 10:19
@ray - I saw that - and that is why I added the last piece. But I don't think the first piece is talking about Pikuach Nefesh either. – Danny Schoemann Mar 30 '14 at 11:26
Nahmanides and Ibn Ezra on Exodus 21 clearly disagree with this. – Baby Seal Mar 30 '14 at 13:14
@BabySeal - in that case your info should be another answer. BTW, IIRC the Kitzur quotes the Rambam almost verbatim on this issue. – Danny Schoemann Mar 30 '14 at 13:35
@DannySchoemann i wasn't critiquing, just offering more info :) pesach cleaning + college = little time, but i'll try to post soon. – Baby Seal Mar 30 '14 at 16:33

Copied from my previous answer, here:

There is a responsum from Rav Moshe about a patient refusing medical care, in the fifth volume of Zomet's halachic journal, תחומין. Here is a very loose translation/summary of what he writes there.

When a patient refuses to take (life-saving) medicine, it depends on why he is refusing. If he still believes that he could be healed by this doctor, but is reluctant to do something which is painful for him, which is a מעשה שטות ומעשה תינוקות, a juvenile/stupid thing to do, then we force the patient to take the medicine, as much as we are able to.
However, if he does not think that this doctor will be successful at healing him, then we have to find doctors that he believes will be effective at healing him. But if there are no doctors who the patient thinks will be effective, or if it is impossible to make the patient understand that what we are doing is for his benefit, then we force him to take the medicine, so long as all the present doctors feel that this is beneficial for him.

However, the only cases where we force a patient to pursue healing are those where the patient will not become upset (שלא יתבעת מזה); for if the patient should get upset, this can be be harmful, even life-threatening. Thus, in those cases, it is better to do nothing.
Therefore, in every case where there is a patient that is unwilling to undergo treatment, all of these variables need to be weighed carefully, before forcing treatment on a patient; the only time doctors should force treatment on a patient is when they do so לשם שמים, with good intent.

Additionally, if there is any amount of סכנה, danger, in the pursuit of this treatment, even if the doctors usually administer this treatment, because the illness is more dangerous, the patient cannot be forced into treatment.

With regards to administering a treatment that is dangerous, but the danger of the illness is still greater (i.e., in general, and not in a case where the patient is refusing treatment) -- one should not always administer this treatment, because even if the treatment was proven to be safe for healthy people, there isn't necessarily proof that it's safe for a very ill patient. A potentially dangerous treatment should never be administered, unless there is proof that more than half of the people who are sick with this illness, to the degree to which this patient is sick, have recovered from their illness.
This calculation must be done carefully, because it is hard, even for very great doctors, to calculate.

So the halacha in this case, according to Rav Moshe, is dependent on many factors -- the mindset of the patient, the chance of recovery, and the danger of the illness and the treatment. As with all halacha questions on Mi Yodeya, it's best to ask a knowledgeable rabbi for a final ruling.

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