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Listening To The Doctors On Shabbat

The Daily Halacha Moment - Listening To The Doctors 🏥

״כל השונה הלכות בכל יום - מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא״ (נידה עג ע״א, מגילה כח:)

“Anyone who studies Halachot every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come” (Megilla 28b, Niddah 73a)


Does one have to desecrate Shabbat for a sick person if the doctor decides?


It is a mitzvah to listen to a doctor if the doctor tells a person that he must desecrate Shabbat in order to help a person who has a life-threatening illness,[1] and this is also the case if the doctor is unsure if the sickness is indeed life-threatening. [2] Similarly, one may rely on the assessment of a non-Jewish or non-observant Jewish doctor that the patient is in a life-threatening situation in order to permit performing a melachah on Shabbat for the need of the patient. [3] Furthermore, If a regular person, who is not a doctor, claims that another person’s illness is life-threatening, one should listen to him and may desecrate Shabbat in order to help the ill person. However, if possible, one should ask a non-Jew to do so, or help the ill person with the use of a shinuy. [4]

Adapted From R' Yonatan Nacsons "Laws Of Shabbat" vol. 2, p. 283


[1].This is also the case with illnesses that the medical profession views as possibly life-threatening. Sefer Refuat Yisrael, pp. 109-110 lists several examples of what would be considered an illness that a doctor would consider as possibly life-threatening. This list includes (but not limited to): Anaphylactic shock, appendicitis, bone fracture, breathing difficulty, severe burn, cancer, carbon monoxide poisoning, cellulitis, severe dehydration, diabetic attack, ear or head injury where there is fluid or blood coming out of the ear, a severe eye infection, food poisoning, head injury, heart attack, heatstroke, hypothermia, meningitis, pneumonia, serious problems in pregnancy, seizures, severe stomach pain, stroke, and severe urinary tract infection, among many other illnesses.

[2]. Halichot Olam, vol. 4, p. 142; Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 3, p. 235.

[3]. Shulchan Aruch 618:1.

[4]. See Shulchan Aruch 328:10 and Biur Halachah 328:10 “Veyesh Mi SheOmer She’en”; Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 3, p. 232.

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