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Human and Animals Medical Experimentation

June 15, 2018 | by Rabbi Pinchas Waldman

I’m wondering what the Jewish view is on animal as well as human medical experimentation.

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Technically, it is permissible to perform medical experiments on animals for potential human benefit. This follows the general principle that we may make use of and even kill animals for human needs. However, since it is forbidden to pain animals unnecessarily, one must be careful not to harm animals any more than required. In addition, needless to say, this would only be permitted in cases where there is a realistic chance some human benefit will result. Doing so just out of curiosity would certainly be forbidden.

In terms of humans, the rules are similar but the concern is even greater. Firstly, needless to say, the person would have to be willing to submit himself to the experimentation. He would have to be made aware of the precise risks and willingly accept them. Secondly, the Torah explicitly forbids causing undeserved pain to another human being. (This is based upon Deut. 25:3, that (even) when administering corporal punishment to a sinful Jew, it is forbidden to whip him more times than the Torah prescribes.) Here too, harming a person for a beneficial purpose – whether for him or others – is allowed, but there is an even greater concern that it carries a real benefit to mankind. In addition, there should be no realistic chance the experiment might be fatal.

(Sources: Genesis 9:2, Talmud Baba Metziah 32b, Shulchan Aruch E.H. 5:14, C.M. 420:31, Igrot Moshe C.M. II 66, Noda B'Yehudah II Y.D. 210, Tzitz Eliezer XIII 101.)

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