Halacha for Wednesday 17 Shevat 5779 January 23 2019

Some Detailed Laws Regarding a Person Suffering from a Life-Threatening Condition on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that there is a Mitzvah to desecrate Shabbat for one whose life is in danger such as to transport him to the hospital, turn on a light in order to afford him proper treatment, and the like. We shall now discuss some details about this matter, based on what Maran zt”l has written in his works.

Any ailment which doctors say is life-threatening is cause to desecrate Shabbat, as we have already discussed. Even if the doctors themselves are not Torah and Mitzvah observant, nevertheless, since their opinion creates at least a “doubt” regarding a life-threatening situation and the law is that Shabbat is desecrated for even such an uncertainty regarding whether or not someone’s life is in danger, we must therefore be mindful of their opinion and desecrate the Shabbat.

If one is bitten by a dog on Shabbat, although no apparent life-threatening situation arises due to the bleeding from the bitten area, if one is uncertain about the health of the dog one was bitten by, the individual should immediately be rushed to the hospital, for the dog may have been rabid, in which case, were he to wait until after Shabbat to go to the hospital, treatment will no longer be effective (because after the rabies virus enters the nervous system, it can no longer be cured; however, beforehand, it can be completely cured through a series of injections).

If one is bitten by a snake on Shabbat, one should likewise be rushed to the hospital and an ambulance should be called for him in addition to whatever else is needed. If it is possible to trap the snake and kill it, it is a Mitzvah to do so, for the snake’s venom will help provide proper treatment for the bite victim.

If one is stung by a wasp or a bee on Shabbat, if one is known to develop allergic reactions from such bites, one should be rushed to the hospital immediately. However, in general, if a regular person was stung by a bee on Shabbat, we need not worry that such an occurrence might turn life-threatening.

 If one is stung by a scorpion on Shabbat, one should be rushed to the hospital. If necessary, the scorpion may be trapped on Shabbat in order to assist the sting victim’s treatment (some customarily take the scorpion, fry it in a frying-pan, and place it on the sting wound, claiming that this is a proven treatment for scorpion stings. This was done until about fifty years ago, but nowadays, modern medical practices should be implemented).

According to modern medicine, when a danger is present to one limb of a person’s body, such as a hand or foot, it presents a great danger to the rest of the body, for through such a great ailment like this, the infection may spread to the rest of the body, and this can even cause death. Thus, obviously, when one limb of a person’s body is in danger, Shabbat is desecrated on behalf of this patient.

Thus, where there is concern for blindness, Shabbat must certainly be desecrated (besides for what we have previously discussed that eye ailments are more serious than other ailments). Similarly, regarding a severe infection of a certain limb which raises concern for the health of that limb, Shabbat is to be desecrated for the patient suffering from this condition.

Similarly, if one’s hand or leg becomes dislocated (common in children), the bone may be relocated to its proper place on Shabbat. If the doctor says that such a thing entails even an uncertainty of a life-threatening circumstance, Shabbat may be desecrated for the patient even by driving him to the hospital and the like. An X-ray may be taken as per a doctor’s instructions on Shabbat in order to ascertain a precise diagnosis of the fracture, or anything that may lead to an uncertain life-threatening situation.

A person who is ill and feels unwell and has a fever of above 104˚ F and has tried to lower the fever using various medications but the fever does not go down, if the cause of the fever is unknown, he may be transported to the hospital immediately in order to undergo the necessary tests and treatments. However, if he is just suffering from the common cold which, in general, causes one to contract a fever as well, he is considered someone who is ill with a non-life-threatening illness and Shabbat may not be desecrated on his behalf in order to take him to the hospital.

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