The Mishna (Bekhorot 8:2) refers to two children born to the same mother, the first by C-section and the second by regular delivery. The Rambam famously comments that it seems exceedingly strange to him that a woman would even survive a C-section, let alone go on to deliver another child healthily, and the US National Library of Medicine suggests that the earliest record of a mother surviving the operation at all might have been as late as 1500.

I'm comfortable with this mishna (like many of the mishnayot in this tractate) being hypothetical; my question is, under which circumstances would a living woman have been subjected to this procedure in the first place? If it carried with it such a high possibility of her not surviving, and since her life takes precedence over the life of her unborn baby, would there have even been a situation in which the halakha allowed it to be performed on a living person?


Very likely a situation whereby the mother would die anyhow; if they performed a C-section they'd save the baby, if not both would die.

  • If she would die anyway, even if she were a גוסס, why would you be allowed to hasten that?
    – Yishai
    Aug 20 '15 at 14:43

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