Historical Perspective of Prosthetic Devices and the Halachic Ramifications
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In the United States there are nearly 2 million people living with limb loss . The majority of limb loss is from amputation, a surgery performed to remove all or part of a limb, in response to a disease or injury. Vascular diseases, such as diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, are the main contributors to limb loss and amputation as these diseases restrict blood flow which can lead to infection and tissue death within the limb . Trauma caused by a severe burn or injury to a limb and cancer in a limb are two of the other main causes for limb amputation. Amputations, however, are not a new phenomenon of modern medicine, and in fact have been performed as a remedy in ancient times as recorded in the Bible and Talmud. Prosthetic devices have been developed as a remedial countermeasure to an amputation or the loss of a limb. There is historical data showing that prosthesis were used as early as 2700 BCE. Early prosthesis addressed the person’s imperfection of not having a limb. They were proxies for the limb lost and provided the amputee with a wholesome aesthetic. Over time, prosthetic devices were enhanced to provide more service and purpose. The discovery of new materials and the advancement of modern technology has led to the development of realistic devices that provide an amputee with increased functionality and mobility. These artificial limbs, which make a person look and feel whole, raise questions in Halacha. As technology advances even further, the issues regarding the status of prosthesis as a real limb get even more complex.
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