Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Medication on Passover

Dr. Daniel Eisenberg on the important issue of taking medication on Passover (link). Unfortunately, too many people are overly lenient regarding their health and end up suffering due to refusal to take medication. This is an important issue and this article should be forwarded around:

...It is crucial to appreciate from the outset that a threat to life takes precedence over all of the laws of Passover (and all other biblical laws except for the prohibitions of murder, adultery/forbidden sexual relationships, and idolatry). No one should stop taking medications for serious or even potentially serious medical conditions during Passover (or any other time) without the express agreement of their doctor (and their Rabbi). Judaism does not look with favor on pious foolishness...

If a person has or may have a life-threatening illness or condition, then they clearly may utilize any food, drink, or medication that is appropriate for their condition, regardless of whether it contains chametz, provided that a convenient substitute without chametz is not easily available. Eating chametz in such a situation is not only permitted, but is mandatory because of the overriding Biblical obligation to preserve life.(4) Therefore, while it is praiseworthy for an ill person to check their medication list against one of the published kosher for Passover medication lists, this is only for their own peace of mind, so they can be assured that they are not ingesting chametz or so that they can ask their physician if any of the chametz-free medications are appropriate substitutes. But under no circumstances should Passover be used as an excuse for seriously ill or potentially seriously ill people (such as those with heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, or infections) to stop taking prescription medications without clear directions from their doctor...

Several Rabbinic organizations have published practical guidelines to help navigate the complex variety of medicine types. One simple formulation, which is an excellent starting point for evaluating medications, is the Chicago Rabbinical Council declaration regarding the use of medicines on Passover, which divides medicines into three basic categories:
  1. All pill medication (with or without chametz) that one swallows is permitted. Vitamins and food supplements do not necessarily fall into this category (even when they are in pill form), and each person should consult with their Rabbi.

  2. Liquid and chewable medications (or pills coated with a flavored coating) that may contain chametz should only be used under the direction of a Doctor and Rabbi, who will judge the severity of the illness, the likelihood that the medicine contains chametz, and the possibility of substituting a swallowable pill. Important: Do not discontinue use of liquid, chewable or any other medicine without consulting with your Doctor and Rabbi.

  3. Liquid and chewable medications that are chametz-free but contain kitniyos, may be consumed by someone who is ill. A healthy person, who would like to consume this type of medicine to merely relieve a minor discomfort, should only do so if the product is known to be free of both chametz and kitniyos.
Read the whole article here.

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