Dear Rabbi Simon,
As you know I recently turned 60 and was pleased to receive my Oyster bus/tube pass.
Another marker on the road to seniority, however, was the NHS bowel cancer screening test kit which arrived in the post within a few days of my birthday. As far as I know I am healthy in this area.
My question is whether, notwithstanding the Torah injunction to guard one’s health exceedingly, there is any Jewish perspective regarding health screening, which I feel in some cases may be considered over-weening or narcissistic.
Thank you for your interesting Q. I suppose your seniority is bringing out your philosophical side.
Safeguarding one’s health may prohibit (or at least inhibit) inherently dangerous behaviour (possibly including smoking tobacco, for example). It does not necessarily mandate preventative measures per se. (Eg exercising 30 minutes a day, albeit doing so is indisputably healthy behaviour statistically likely to extend one’s life.) Nevertheless, one who chooses to exercise prudence about early detection of illness, etc, is probably to be praised. Conversely, to spurn the chance to determine whether or not one has early signs of a particular illness strikes me as overly complacent.
In sum, this is a judgment call, probably not bound by definitive halakhic principles. But since you (as a taxpayer—I know I am making a big assumption here) are paying for the NHS to send this screening test kit, and the medical wise women regard such expense as justified, it seems prudent to make use of it. I do not feel that doing so is narcissistic or suggests a lack of bitachon. Who knows if that screening kit is the means by which Hashem seeks to preserve the life/health of the recipient?
Not a halakhic digest, but food for thought at least.
Rabbi Rashi Simon