Although this is done routinely in Israel, is a doctor halachically allowed to treat a terrorist that has been injured, given that they would be considered a rodef. Or is rodef an 'in the act' status, such that once they are incapacitated they are no longer a rodef?

Similarly, as in recent news, would one be halachically allowed to treat a hunger striking terrorist if we are certain of the nature of their intent to kill?

  • It seems that three issues are being addressed: May one medically treat a rodef? Is a rodef defined as one who is pursuing to kill, or someone who will do so? In which cases will a person kill in the future. (Personally I fail to understand the question about the hunger striker. How can we be certain he will kill others in the future if he is dead from hunger?) – mevaqesh Sep 7 '15 at 17:53

I have zero comment as to today's politics. And when in comes to broader policies, there are many different concerns at play.

I can refer you to likely the closest source material, though; assuming individual criminals and civilian life: Suppose a criminal is chasing after you with a gun saying you looked at me funny, I'm going to kill you!, and suddenly by pure chance an Acme anvil drops on him, injuring him and destroying the gun. Do you now treat his wounds?

Gemara Sanhedrin 72b

תנו רבנן (שמות כב) דמים לו בין בחול בין בשבת אין לו דמים בין בחול בין בשבת בשלמא אין לו דמים בין בחול בין בשבת איצטריך סלקא דעתך אמינא מידי דהוה אהרוגי בית דין דבשבת לא קטלינן קמ"ל דקטלינן אלא דמים לו בין בחול בין בשבת השתא בחול לא קטלינן ליה בשבת מבעיא אמר רב ששת לא נצרכא אלא לפקח עליו את הגל

[A burglar invading a house is usually assumed to be prepared to lethally silence the homeowner, and thus if the homeowner killed the burglar there would be a valid self-defense claim.] Our rabbis taught: if the burglar clearly was not prepared to use lethal force, you may not kill him, whether on Sabbath or weekday. If the burglar was prepared to use lethal force, you may kill him whether on Sabbath or weekday. In the case of self-defense, this teaches that although court executions are not performed on the Sabbath, one may kill in self-defense on the Sabbath. In the case of no self-defense, if I can't kill the intruder on a weekday, why would I think I can kill him on the Sabbath? Said Rav Sheishet: it means [you may not let him die, i.e.] you must save him from collapsed rubble.

Rashi explains: suppose I am 100% certain that this burglar is not prepared to kill me. As he's breaking into my house, he is severely injured. I am now obligated to save his life, breaking Shabbat if necessary, like any other person.

Whereas, says Rashi, suppose this is a burglar who comes with a gun and self-defense would apply, but while breaking into my house he is injured. I may not break Shabbat to save his life, says Rashi, as he was a dead man walking as soon as he broke in (because of my valid self-defense claim).

Rashi seems to be saying you can only break Shabbat to save a living person, not a "dead" person who is in danger of remaining that way. He does not say "don't save his life because he's a rodef", or "don't save his life because it's his fault", or anything like that. Which would imply it's permissible, and maybe even obligatory, to save his life on a weekday.

(This fits into a broader discussion of life-saving measures for those with legal status of "less-than-living", which may also include fetuses, someone undergoing a heart transplant, and someone in need of resuscitation. [E.g. the famous Tosafot how Elisha broke the rule of Kohen-don't-approach-a-corpse to save non-living Shunamite boy from remaining non-living "because he was sure resuscitation would work.])

  • "Which would imply it's permissible, and maybe even obligatory, to save his life on a weekday." How could you read Rashi to not say it's obligatory? – Daniel Sep 7 '15 at 14:28
  • @Daniel Rashi was only talking about the Shabbat case, we have to extrapolate to weekdays. He says "don't break Shabbat to save his life, as he's non-living." Does that mean on Tuesday there's still no obligation as he's non-living; or that on Tuesday, there's no Shabbat blocking your obligation to save the non-living? – Shalom Sep 7 '15 at 14:40
  • But he says even on Shabbat, you should break Shabbat to treat the guy whose gun is broken. Isn't it a kal v'chomer to weekdays? The non-living guy was the one who you could kill in self-defense because he was actively pursuing you. – Daniel Sep 7 '15 at 14:41
  • @Daniel read it again. He says you don't break Shabbat for the guy who came in with the gun. As soon as he entered the house with a gun he was a dead man walking, so when the anvil fell on him that status remained. It's not about "is he a threat while lying here bleeding out?", it's about "was he a threat one second before the anvil came down on him?" The only burglar for whom you break Shabbat is someone with a big sign on their head that says IF YOU TRY TO STOP ME I WILL SURRENDER RATHER THAN HURT YOU. – Shalom Sep 7 '15 at 15:11
  • That's certainly an interesting interpretation of Rashi. I think, however, the simpler explanation is that where he would likely kill you once you've saved him, you don't save him, whether it is chol or shabbos. – Loewian Sep 7 '15 at 18:27

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