Hospital Shift on Shabbat
לכבוד הרבנים ומרן הגאב׳ד שליט׳א
A junior doctor who is having to work on a shift in a hospital on shabbat (בחוץ לארץ אם חולים שאינם יהודים)
1. When liaising with colleagues (for urgent and non-urgent matters relating to patient care) is it preferable to send messages via text messages (SMS) or to phone using a smart phone or regular (landline) phone?
2. What is considered a shinuy when having to use a phone or typing on a keyboard of a computer?
3. Can a computer be used to check the hospital guidelines/protocols relating to patient care?
4. Can a computer be used to type a patient’s discharge letter and medicines (which will only be dispensed if written by the doctor on the computer) even if the patient is now stable and not in immediate danger?
It must be clarified that working a hospital shift on Shabbos which requires care of Jews and non Jews alike, presents a major halachic issue. A religious doctor must try to avoid getting in to such a situation. One who has a question of losing a job over this, must consult with his Rabbinic authority for guidance.
For one who is working a Shabbos shift, the general rule is that for any life threatening illness, treatment may be administered to everyone equally, Jew and non Jew. For non urgent issues, one must attempt to have the melacha done by a non Jew. For treatment of illness which is not life threatening [when a non Jew can’t replace him] a shinui should be used. Any computer/device should be typed with a knuckle or some other back handed way. A regular phone would seem to have preference over other devices which include writing in addition to the electric circuit. The same applies to issuing a discharge letter, which is important for follow up care, but not for immediate pikuach nefesh, and as such should be done by a non Jew, and if not only with a shinui.