Giving medical treatments to a parent

Giving medical treatments to a parent:[1]

A. Removing a splinter from a parent:[2]

It is [Rabbinically[3]] forbidden for a son to remove a splinter that is stuck within the skin of his father [or mother] due to that one may come to cause him a wound in the process.

B. Performing an amputation and bloodletting to a parent:[4]

If a child is a professional bloodletter or doctor, it is [Rabbinically] forbidden for him to [cut him to] perform bloodletting on his father, or amputate a limb of one’s father [or mother for medicinal reasons] even though he intends to do so for healing purposes.[5] [This applies even by a life-threatening situation, if another doctor is available and can give the same level treatment as explained next.[6]]

If there is no one else available to do so:[7] The above prohibition, however, only applies if there is another doctor available to perform the procedure. If, however, there is no one else available [or getting another doctor will involve great difficulty[8]], and the parent is in pain [or danger], then the son may let blood from him and amputate him according to that which the parent allows him to do [or has to be done according to medical procedures if the parents’ consent cannot be withdrawn[9]].[10] [Likewise, if the child is a greater expert in this field than other doctors, or if the parent trusts his son more than other doctors to perform this procedure, then the son may give the treatment.[11] In all the above cases that the child may administer care to the parent, it is proper for the parent to explicitly permit the child to do so and forgive his prohibition.[12]]


May a grandchild administer medical treatment to his grandparent if doing so will cause blood to be drawn?[13]

Yes. Nonetheless, one who is stringent not to do so and rather has it done by another person is blessed.

May one give free medical care to his parent if doing so will save the parent from needing to spend money on a doctor or caretaker?[14]

If doing so will not involve letting any blooding, then it is permitted and a Mitzvah. If doing so will involve letting blood from the father, such as to remove a splinter or perform stitches, then some Poskim[15] rule that it is permitted to be done by the child in such a case in order to save the parent from the burden of spending money on another doctor. However, other Poskim[16] are stringent even in such a case. Practically, one may be lenient in a case that the parent will end up saving a considerably large sum of money, or if the parents are poor and cannot afford to pay for medical care.[17]


Q&A on the forbidden forms of medical treatment

The medical procedures that are forbidden for a child to do on behalf of his parent unless no one else available:

The general rule is as follows: any medical treatment which involves the potential drawing of blood or creation of an inner wound is forbidden to be performed if there is a chance that more blood than necessary will be removed as a result.

List of medical treatments that are forbidden to be done on behalf of the parent unless no one else available:[18]

  1. Perform surgery.
  2. Remove a tooth.[19]
  3. Remove a splinter.[20]
  4. Remove blood for a blood test or other purposes.
  5. Administer a medication or infusion through the use of a needle syringe.[21] Some Poskim[22] however prohibit this only if the medication will be administered through a vein, however if it will be administered through a muscle, then they are lenient to permit it on the basis that is not for certain that blood will be drawn. Other Poskim[23] however are stringent in all cases to prohibit one from being done. [Regarding the administration of a daily dose of insulin to a parent, ideally it would be forbidden under the above clause, unless it is an emergency, and another doctor is not available. However, in the event that going to a doctor or other person every single day in order to have this done would involve much difficulty, then it is permitted for the son to administer it to his parent, as explained above.[24] The same rules would apply to doing a daily prick to the parents skin in order to get a blood sugar level reading.]
  6. Bandaging a bleeding wound of the parent if while doing so blood can potentially be squeezed out.
  7. Bankes[25] cupping therapy.
  8. Acupuncture

May a child give his parent a haircut or shave?[26]

A haircut machine and electric razor may be used to trim or shave the hair of a parent. However, a regular razor may not be used due to fear that it may come to cut the parent and cause a wound.

May a child circumcise his father?[27]

No, unless there is no other Mohel who can do so or who the father will trust.

May one scratch his father’s back?

One may only do so if it will not cause bleeding.

May one slap five with his parent?

One may do so with consent of his parent out of jest and playfulness.[28] If however, any damage or pain will be inflicted to the parent then it is forbidden to do so, even with his consent. This applies towards any person and not just a parent.[29]

May one massage one’s parent forcefully?

Yes.[30] One may do so upon his parents’ request.

May one box with his parents?

No. It is forbidden to do so even with a non-parent, even with the person’s consent.[31]

May one wrestle with a parent?

No, as it is possible to cause the parent an injury through doing so.


May one play tackle football with a parent?

No, as it is possible to cause the parent an injury through doing so.


[1] Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:3-5

[2] Michaber 241:3; Rambam Mamrim 5:7; Sanhedrin 84b

[3] See Sanhedrin 84b; Ran ibid; Sheilasos Mishpatim; Beis Yosef

[4] Michaber 241:3; Rambam Mamrim 5:7; Rabbeinu Yerucham Nesiv 1 4:15 in name of Rif Sanhedrin 19a; Rosh Sanhedrin 10:1; Rav Papa in Sanhedrin 84b

[5] Michaber ibid

The reason: Although it is biblically permitted for one to draw blood from a parent for the sake of a medical purpose, nonetheless, it is rabbinically forbidden to do so being that one may come to unintentionally injure his father more than necessary for the healing of the wound and hence come to transgress the Biblical command. [See Sanhedrin 84b; Ran ibid; Sheilasos Mishpatim; Beis Yosef]

[6] Minchas Yitzchak 1:27

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that in the case of danger of life we do not pay attention to the above rules, and the son may administer treatment to his parents even if another doctor is available. [Chelkas Yaakov Y.D. 131]

[7] Rama ibid; Tur 241; Rambam Mamarim 5:7; Ramban Toras Hadam Inyan Hasakanah  p. 43 in opinion of Rif ibid; Meiri Sanhedrin ibid; Chinuch Mitzvah 48

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to do the above procedures even if no one else is available. [Rif and Rosh; Shulchan Gavoa in accordance with Michaber ibid]

[8] Chelkas Yaakov Y.D. 131 based on Tosafus Pesachim 25b; Minchas Yitzchak 1:27

[9] Derech Pikudecha Mitzvah 47 Chelek Hadibbur 4

[10] The reason: As it is biblically permitted for one to draw blood from a parent for the sake of a medical purpose, and it is merely rabbinically forbidden to do so being that one may come to unintentionally injure his father more than necessary. Now, the sages only upheld their decree in a case that another doctor is available however in a case that there is no one else available, then certainly the son is to rely on the biblical law and administer medical treatment as necessary. [See Sanhedrin 84b; Ran ibid; Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:4 footnote 13]

[11] Aruch Hashulchan 241:6; Minchas Yitzchak 1:27; Mishneh Halachos 9:404; Minchas Shlomo 1:32; Beir Moshe 4:84; Shevet Halevi 2:112-4; 8:79-2; Kneses Yechezkal 1:58; See Kinyan Torah 1:94

[12] Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:3-4

[13] Rambam Mamarim 5:3 and Chinuch Mitzvah 260 regarding a curse, brought in Gilyon Maharsha 241; Sheilas Yaavetz 2:129; Torah Lishma 265; Tzitz Eliezer 22:61

[14] See Aruch Hashulchan 241:6; Minchas Chinuch 48; Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:3

[15] Yifei Laleiv 3:3; Gesher Hachaim 2:1; Chelkas Yaakov 2:39-3-4; Minchas Shlomo 1:32

[16] Har Tzevi Y.D. 197; Minchas Yitzchak 1:27-4; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:443

[17] Minchas Yitzchak 1:27-4; Shevet Halevi 10:159

[18] Pesakim Uteshuvos ibid

[19] Shelasos Sheilasa 60

[20] Michaber ibid

[21] Gesher Hachaim 2:1; Minchas Yitzchak 1:27; Mishneh Halachos 9:404; Minchas Shlomo 1:32; Beir Moshe 4:84; Shevet Halevi 2:112-4; 8:79-2; Kneses Yechezkal 1:58

[22] Gesher Hachaim 2:1; Minchas Shlomo 1:32

[23] Rav Pesach Tzevi Frank in Gesher Hachaim ibid; Implication of Poskim ibid

[24] Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:4

[25] ‘Bankes’ is a Yiddish folk remedy involving little glass cups that are heated and then applied to the skin, forming a vacuum that healers believed would suck out whatever was making you sick in the pre-antibiotic’s era.

[26] See Leket Yosher 2:37; Shema Avraham 70; Moshav Zikeinim Parshas Kedoshim 3; Shut Hatzelach 30; Shevet Hakehasi 1:260; Mishneh Halachos 12:115; 8:128-7; Beir Moshe 2:85; Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:5

[27] Imrei Yosher Y.D. 94; Eretz Tzevi 2:48; Minchas Shlomo 2:79; Tzitz Eliezer 17 Miluim p. 182

[28] This follows the same law as slapping five with any other person, as there is no wound being created in the process and the Rama ibid states that hitting a parent without release of blood retains the same prohibition as applies towards any person. Now, since slapping five with another person involves his consent it is therefore not considered hitting at all, the same way that taking someone’s money with consent is not considered stealing at all. It is the consent that makes a difference between whether the act is stealing or charity, and whether the act is hitting or playfulness. Now, although it is forbidden to hit another Jew even with his consent, or to cause him pain [Admur Nizkei Haguf 4; Rivash 484] nonetheless slapping five does not cause one pain at all, or any damage, and is hence not considered within the category of a hit. Hitting is defined as doing an act which is either painful or damaging to another person. If, however it is neither painful nor damaging then it is not considered a hit at all.

[29] Admur Nizkei Haguf 4; Rivash 484

[30] This follows the same allowance as stated above, that an action that is neither painful nor damaging is permitted, and on the contrary, here the action is helpful to the body.

[31] As doing so causes one unnecessary pain and even possible longtime damage in the head.

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