By Rabbi Chaim Chazzan
May a person undergo surgery when not medically necessary (to alter their appearance and the like)?
The following Halachic concerns pertain to this shaila: (a) The Torah (see Devarim 25:3) forbids wounding another person or oneself (chavala). (b) Another concern is that one may not willfully put oneself in a dangerous position (sakana).
However, if wounding oneself is done not in a degrading manner (derech bizoyon), rather in a beneficial way, it is permitted. In addition it is permitted to wound in order to alleviate pain including psychological pain. Therefore some poskim permit such surgery in circumstances of need.
The issue of danger depends on the degree of danger involved in the specific surgery.
Others poskim forbid it explaining that the Torah’s permission to heal (verapo yerape) applies only to curing an illness but not to altering one’s appearance.
To summarize: It is the consensus of the poskim that it is forbidden to undergo surgery simply for convenience, when there is no great need. Even in a situation of great need there is a dispute among poskim whether it is permitted. One who is contemplating such surgery must consult his or her rov for a ruling on its permissibility.
ראה שו״ת אג״מ חו״מ ח״ב סי׳ סו, חלקת יעקב ח״ג סי׳ יא, ציץ אליעזר חי״א סי׳ מא, מנחת יצחק ח״ו סי׳ קה
Reprinted with permission from Lmaan Yishmeu – a project of Mercaz Anash. To see more articles visit Mercazanash.com