Jewish Family Care for Sick Patients
Having a close friend or family member diagnosed with a serious disease is heart-wrenching. Knowing that your loved one is going to be suffering can almost feel worse than being sick yourself. You might feel a burning desire to help the patient get better, but be unsure as to what you can do. The good news is that you can always do something productive to help a sick patient, even if you can’t actually help them get better.
If the patient is a very close family member such as a spouse, parent, or child, you may be the one handling their medical treatment. You might be the one talking to doctors, accompanying them to appointments, and making sure the patient takes their medicine. Every one of these acts is in fact a mitzvah (Torah commandment). Each time you help your family member access medical care, you gain incredible merits.
The zechus (merit) of arranging a family member’s medical treatment is tremendous, because the Torah places great emphasis on the value of life. By investing effort to extend and improve your family member’s life, you are fulfilling this great value of the Torah.
Jewish family care for sick patients can include many more mitzvos as well, such as the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) when you spend time in the hospital, and the mitzvah of Gemilas Chessed (lovingkindness) when helping them. Aside from the merit that you accrue for their care, overcoming the difficulties involved in caring closely for the ill makes you a more patient, understanding person. Many people who have cared for a sick family member say that it gives them a new perspective on life, making them care less about petty things, and more sympathetic to suffering.
This kind of growth changes you as a person, making it a lifelong benefit of Jewish family care for sick loved ones.
Jewish Medical Care Guidelines
Jewish Hospice Care
It’s one of the most painful moments when the doctors say that there is nothing they can do to cure your family member. At that point, it becomes more important than ever to have community support and especially, the advice of a rabbi.
This is because Jewish hospice care perspectives can be very different than what the hospital or hospice facility’s policy is. While pulling the plug or not giving nourishment to a sick patient is seen by some as an act of mercy, in most situations, Jewish medical directives consider these actions as equivalent to murder. And in fact, there have been many stories where doctors have advised pulling the plug, and yet, the patient experienced a miraculous recovery.
To ensure your family member’s end-of-life treatment follows Jewish care for the ill guidelines, it’s worthwhile to do research on the facility your family member receives treatment in. Different facilities and different doctors will have different policies, some of which are more in line with Jewish medical directives than others.
Watching a family member who might be unresponsive or unconscious, perhaps suffering a great deal, might make you wonder what the point of prolonging such a life is. But the Jewish perspective on hospice care makes it clear that there is value to every moment of life, no matter what kind of life it is. As long as a person’s soul is still here, a person can continue to fulfill his life’s mission through staying alive.
One way an unconscious person is productive is through the suffering itself. Suffering cleanses the person’s soul, atoning for any wrongdoing the person may have done. People in this state also serve as a reminder to those around them to make the most of their lives with good deeds. Those good deeds that the patient inspires in others is to their credit.