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Son Feels Guilty

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Topic: Son Feels Guilty

[Name Withheld] wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

My father died in February. He believed in G-d, went to shul and led a both modern and religious life; he was 87 years young. He was active, stressed physical well-being to my brother and I and was physically and mentally in great shape. I loved my father very much. I am a man in his late forties and have the following problem. My Dad went to the hospital for a "minor surgery" that the doctor said would take 15 minutes. The surgery was OK but my father was almost totally disorientated when they told me to take him home the next day. I took him home and he fell down the stairs. I rushed him back to the hospital where he died. The doctor said he would be given a local anesthetic to freeze him below the waist only. My mom and I encouraged my dad to get the procedure done. It was a minor thing on his bladder. Rabbi, in this country-to sue a doctor is a terrible financial burden to bear. My mother said to drop the subject and my brother has a family and other responsibilities. I am burdened with tremendous guilt for encouraging my Dad to do the 15-minute procedure that killed him, I am not financially secure enough to embark with lawyers and my mother won't sign to get his file released from the hospital records. My wife died eight years ago, my dog died soon after. Please help me understand what a caring individual can do and what would my father thinks of me now (I'm crying at this terminal, in a library).

Dear [Name Withheld],

First, let me offer sincere condolences at the loss of your father. I'm moved by the depth of anguish so apparent in your letter. There's no easy answer to your question. I can only try to put things into a perspective which might be helpful.

Judaism maintains that our bodies and souls are not our possessions with which we can do whatever we want. Rather, they are on loan from Hashem. We must care for them in the way commanded by the Torah. According to the Torah we have an obligation to engage in healing and medicine. Therefore, you were right and obligated to encourage your father to undergo the procedure.

As for suing the hospital, keep in mind that there is a Torah commandment to honor your mother. Since your mother seems to be against suing, I think you should listen and bow to her wishes.


  • Bava Kama 85a
  • Shmot 21:19

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