Q. Can you embrace or kiss a dying patient if the doctors maintain that it will not affect the patient, and on the contrary it may extend temporarily his life?
A. On question 251 regarding the following case “My mother was terminally ill, it was a matter of time according to the doctors. When she became unconscious and the attending nurse said that she would not last long, we were in doubt if we could even touch her, caress her, let the nurse change her soiled clothes or make her more comfortable as we were told by very religious relatives that you are not allowed to touch the dying, it seemed very cruel, were they correct?”
We answered ” Halacha dictates that a person close to death may enter into a state named Gosses. Most Gosesim die within 72 hours.
Shulchan Oruch (Y.D. 339,1) rules that a Gosses is as alive as any other person. Thus, the prohibition and punishment for killing a Gosses is the same. (See; Minchas Chinuch 34). It is generally forbidden to move a Gosses, because, in light of his condition, such changes of posture or position may hasten his demise. (Y. D. 339,1). Shach (ibid.) quotes Maseches Smochos (1:4 – Shabbos 151b); “The Gosses is likened to a candle whose flame is about to be extinguished. If one touches it, it blows out. Nonetheless in Nekudas Hakesef he permits light touching.
Drisha (ibid. 1) discusses touching at length, Igrois Moishe C.M. 2, 73, 2) seems more stringent. (See Toras Harefuah p.70) however, Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit”a permits very light touching, caressing and even light moving such as adjusting the angle of the bed when deemed necessary for the well-being of the patient, but not changing soiled clothes as that involve mayor bodily movement.
Many Poskim permit live-saving treatment for a Gosses when done by the attending physicians or medical personnel, (Teshuvos Vehanhogos 1, 872 – Tzitz Eliezer 8, 15 et. al.)
Remoh (ibid.) adds, that one may remove “anything that prevents the departure of the soul, such as a clanging noise such as the sound of a nearby woodchopper or a grain of salt that is on his tongue . . . since such acts do not accelerate death but merely remove an impediment to death”.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller and Horav Aharon Miller Shlit’a