Scholars of applied Jewish ethics often describe the 1959 publication of Jewish Medical Ethics, by Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, as the birth of Jewish bioethics. The decades following its publication saw prolific scholarship, predominantly by Orthodox rabbis, that examined questions about medical practice and technology through the lens of halakha, or Jewish law. This article offers an alternative genealogy of Jewish bioethics, proposing that the field actually emerged around the 1990s, when academic ethics scholars began offering critiques of the earlier scholarship, which is better understood as medical halakha. This article outlines key features of medical halakha as compared with Jewish bioethics, clarifies differences between the two, and argues that drawing a distinction between these two genres will enable greater diversity and creativity in Jewish bioethics discourse. The article closes by discussing ways to incorporate Jewish philosophy into Jewish bioethics under this new framework.

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