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The Mishna at Sanhedrin 6:2 says that anyone who confesses his sins before dying has a share in the World to Come. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch at 193:13 says that when visiting a sick person who is near death, the visitor should engage the patient in conversation and encourage him to "recite the confession" (i.e. the vidui), and assure the patient that doing so does not assure his death, as many have recited the vidui and recovered. If he can only speak a bit, one is to have the patient say, "May my death be an atonement for all my sins," and that he should request forgiveness from any person he has wronged.

But I have seen patients who were unconscious before death and unable to confess their sins, so loved ones would recite the vidui for them. How can another person, even a close relative, confess the sins of the patient? Is there an implied agency? Where is that recognized?

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    Are the loved ones working under rabbinic guidance? – Double AA Mar 4 '13 at 17:06
  • @DoubleAA: In the most recent case I saw, probably yes since one son-in-law is a shul rav and another son is a rabbi and head of a middle school yeshiva. – Bruce James Mar 4 '13 at 20:58
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    Are you accepting answers that hold this is bogus? – mevaqesh Nov 9 '17 at 3:24
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I've heard of a case where somebody in a coma was aware of things happening around him, but couldn't respond in any way. This person eventually recovered and thanked the chaplain for sending someone to read the Megillah for him on Purim.

Other people saying the viduy probably does nothing by itself, but if the patient can hear and say it together with them mentally, there's no reason that wouldn't work.

(I don't have a source that this is the reason it's done. If it is, it's limited to cases where there's a real possibility that the patient is aware of what's going on. It's probably also worth saying first "We're going to say the viduy for you now. You should say it in your mind along with us.")

  • YD 338:1: “If he’s unable to admit with the mouth, he should admit with the heart.” That line implies that the person should think it, not that he should let someone else do it for him. I don’t know that Shomei’a k’oneh would apply here. It wouldn’t be that the relatives’ recital counts for the person, but that the person “says” it along wit them. – DonielF Jun 6 '18 at 16:11
  • @DonielF but the relatives saying it out loud might be a prompt for the person himself to say it in his heart, like the chazzan for birkas kohanim. It's not like someone in a coma can read a siddur. – Heshy Jun 6 '18 at 16:26
  • On that I agree. My point is that he should “say” it along with them, not “have in mind to agree to it.” – DonielF Jun 6 '18 at 17:36
  • @DonielF good point. edited. – Heshy Jun 6 '18 at 17:39

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