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Swapping Shifts in Hospital on Shabbos

It has become commonplace for observant frum doctors in חוץ לארץ to swap their shabbos shifts with non- jewish colleagues in order to avoid חילול שבת. It is (in my experience) virtually impossible to do this on a regular basis particularly on Friday afternoons of winter months when shabbos begins early in the afternoon.

שאלה: if one works in a hospital where there are possibly a number of jewish inpatients who he may or may not come in contact with, is one מחויב to make all efforts in order to swap that shabbos shift with a גוי or can he be סומך on the possibility that he may come to treat a יהודי in that hospital and therefore does not need to swap his shift?

In addition what are the גדרים of undertaking shifts on שבת for frum jewish doctors working in hospitals of חוץ לארץ where the majority of patients will not be יהודים?


Certainly a doctor should make reasonable efforts to swap his Shabbos shifts with other non Jewish doctors. Even though he may come to treat a Jewish patient, he will certainly also treat many non Jewish patients, for which he should try to swap shifts. When possible without hindering the treatment of the patient, the position of the Rama [328:12] is that even Jewish patients should ideally be treated by non Jewish doctors. This is especially so in a hospital setting where many non critical procedures also must be done by way of policy. Ultimatley, every doctor will need to also take a Shabbos shift, at which point all patients whose treatment is pikuach nefesh are treated equally, Jew and non Jew alike. See Igros Moshe [O:C 4:79] who rules that one must attempt to swap shifts, but on the otherhand rules that one must violate even Torah prohibitions to save the lives on non Jews as well, beacuase of  “aivah”. He takes issue in this regard with the Mishnah Brura [330:8] who indicates otherwise.



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