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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 17, 2006 / 19 Iyar, 5766

Defrauding insurance to save a life

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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When values conflict


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I have an uninsured patient who needs a life-sustaining medicine which is beyond his means. The family is urging me to write the prescription for another family member whose drug bills are covered by insurance


A: Your unfortunate situation is a variation of one of the most famous and trying dilemmas in ethics. Renowned ethics researcher Lawrence Kohlberg used a version of this situation which he called "Heinz's dilemma." In Kohlberg's scenario, Heinz's wife needs a life-saving drug which he can obtain only from a local pharmacist, who demands a prohibitive price far more than the cost of the drug. Heinz must decide if it is ethical to steal the drug.


Many people have been faced with situations where the ethical obligation to save life seems to oppose the ethical prohibition on stealing. Jewish tradition provides one resolution of this dilemma. Let us present the solution and afterwards discuss its applicability to your situation.


The Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish Law) states: "Even if one is in mortal danger and must steal from his fellow in order to save his life, he must only take it with intention to repay." In other words, we allow a "forced loan" or a permissible tort to save a life, but afterwards the stolen object or the damage must be paid for. (1) This is based on the principle that all other prohibitions are set aside in cases of danger to life. (2)


This ruling is learned from a historical situation presented in the Talmud. The story concerns King David and his knights who needed to pass through a field where hostile Philistine soldiers were lying in ambush. They decided they needed to clear the field and consulted the Sanhedrin, the highest legal authority. The judges told them that clearing the field is permissible, but normally only on condition of payment. However, in the case of King David this condition is superfluous, since his sovereign power of eminent domain gives him the right to clear the field.


We see that in many cases the dichotomy between stealing and neglecting to save a life is not so stark; there may be an intermediate solution of some kind of "forced loan." (Indeed, one of the criticisms of Kohlberg's theories is that his focus on "pre-packaged" dilemmas leaves too little room for creative "out of the box" solutions.)


That being said, I do not think that this ruling of the Shulchan Aruch provides a valid justification for cheating the insurance company. There are a number of differences between the situations.


The first relevant distinction is that in the case of King David, it was unambiguous whose field needed to be cleared. The victim could justifiably ask, "Why did you need to destroy a perfectly good wheat crop?" But he couldn't have asked, "Why did you have to pick on my field, and not someone else's?" The road the army needed to travel, and the Philistine ambush, were specifically through that field.


But in your case, the insurance company has no particular reason for being singled out besides the fact that they are an easy target. A similar criticism could be made of Heinz's dilemma. Even if we agree that Heinz is justified in stealing to save his wife's life, why is he justified in stealing from the druggist? Wouldn't it be equally justified for him to snatch purses from old ladies?

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A second distinction is that King David and his knights insisted on transparency. They consulted an authoritative legal body, whose judgment could later on have been challenged by the field's owner, and their clearing of the field was done openly, not furtively. This differs from the secretive solution your patient is suggesting.


There is a third distinction which makes the insurance company perhaps the worst candidate for this kind of deception: the money you would be stealing from them would otherwise go to some other urgent medical need. If you were to forge a check, the account holder, or bank, would lose money that might have been earmarked for some business project, like the wheat field destroyed by King David. But the insurance company is in the business of underwriting medical expenses, and practically speaking a large fraction of these are for other people with comparably urgent needs. While Judaism acknowledges that saving life overrides most transgressions, an exception is made for the prohibition of endangering others. Saving your life at the expense of endangering someone else is forbidden, for our Sages tell us, "Who says that your blood is redder than his?!" (2)


I am far too modest about my capabilities to believe that I have the authority to make life-and-death decisions for others whether stealing is or is not justified in cases of mortal danger. I pray that I should never have to face such a dilemma myself. But I am certain that stealing should not be a first resort, made attractive by expediency. I see a definite ethical an obligation to exhaust other routes: government programs, private contributions, bank loans, alternative treatments, and so on.


The law we cited from the Shulchan Aruch has a general message: The choice between outright stealing and outright neglect of rescue is seldom so stark. Thought and effort are needed to seek solutions which don't brazenly affront either of these vital ethical ideals.


SOURCES: (1) (CM 359:4) (2) Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 74a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 157. (3) Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 60b. (The Talmudic account is based on events narrated in II Samuel chapter 23.)

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


Previously:

Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics