I recently spoke to a doctor at one of our public hospitals. Her advice was – don’t get sick!
We all know about the pressures that come to bear on the health system. Whilst there is the potential for much ethical level commentary on this from a Jewish perspective, where the sanctity of life, application of medical ethics and social responsibility would provide much source material to justify a significant change in health policy, there is another aspect of health that I would like to draw on.
From a general religious point of view, many groups lobby the Government over specific health related issues. For example, abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, post-mortums, circumcision, transplant surgery and blood transfusions. These issues and more often appear in the press, with religious spokespeople generally mounting a negative campaign against scientific and technological development that can improve patient care or deliver new medical solutions.
Medical ethics is a huge area of Jewish thought, and one that is particularly hard to generalise. Each case has its circumstances, and it is incorrect to represent a firm Jewish position over many medical related issues. The sanctity of life is paramount in Jewish thought, and therefore Judaism tends to promote many forms of medical intervention, and encourages research and development to a certain extent. This distinguishes Jewish thinking from many other religions.
It is true that man is not G-d, and therefore man should not act like G-d in giving and taking life. However, the very symbol of Jewish identity is the Brit Milah, a circumcision, which happens to be the topic of this weeks Torah reading. A brit signifies human partnership in the process of creation. It signifies the completion of creation, the correcting of an imperfection, and testifies to the role of people in recreating and continuing G-ds process of creation each and every day. On this basis, Judaism regards it part of the mandate of humans to uncover natures secrets, develop medical remedies, and to recognise and put to work the benefits of medical science.
I mention this because I read today about some religious groups, inclusive of the Bretheren, who attempt to influence political decision makers, and who direct funding towards various candidates. In return, a number of restrictions to the use of medicine and medical procedures are advocated.
This is wrong, both in terms of process, and in terms of outlook. Australia has secular and civil law, which must be respected. Beyond this, it annoys me that there are groups that, in the name of religion, stand in the way of progress. Judaism is not one of those religions!