Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

  • Hebrew
  • English
  • Espnaol
  • Francais
Menu

Modesty in medical school

19/04/2005

Question:

I will be attending medical school in the fall and I was wondering about the halacha with regard to my being female and having male patients. I understand about pikuach nefesh but what if I am just learning how to take blood pressure or palpate an abdomen? If I am only supposed to stick to female patients, won't this harm my learning experience? What should I do?


Answer:

There are two issues in taking care of patients of the opposite sex. One is touch and the other is seeing them undressed.

The touch that is clearly forbidden by halacha is affectionate touch. Touching for a physical exam is not affectionate. While in general day to day activity we don't permit "non-affectionate" touch for no purpose as a further safeguard, in case of need such as medicine, this would be permitted in the context of study and practice.

With repeated exposure to undressed bodies, the element of excitement lessens. Furthermore, women are felt to be less sexually excited by seeing men undressed than men are when they see women. While looking at undressed men for purposes of enjoyment is frowned upon, seeing what one needs to see to care for them is permitted for students (who quickly become an important part of the care of patients in teaching institutions) as well as trained physicians.


This internet service does not preclude, override or replace the psak of any rabbinical authority. It is the responsibility of the questioner to inform us of any previous consultation or ruling. As even slight variation in circumstances may have Halachic consequences, views expressed concerning one case may not be applied to other, seemingly similar cases. All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.

For further questions or comments: 

The Nishmat Women's Health and Halacha Site is a public service of Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. This project and others like it are made possible by contributions from people like you. If you have benefited from the service, and wish to enable us to help others, click here to donate.


Users of Internet filtering services: This site discusses sensitive subjects that some services filter without visual indication. A page that appears 100% complete might actually be missing critical Jewish-law or medical information. To ensure that you view the pages accurately, ask the filtering service to whitelist all pages under yoatzot.org.