To Whom It May Concern,
I am a surgical resident/registrar currently training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery .
I am due to sit my final exams in 18 months. Traditionally, there is a clinical examination which spans a Shabbos and Sunday. On the Shabbos there is usually long cases and short cases but often as part of these examinations one is asked to draw diagrams to explain concepts/operations/anatomy.
I was wondering what I am to do from a Halachic perspective (given that it is unlikely that the College of Surgeons will change the exam day)?
Furthermore, there are often practice examinations held on shabbos in the year leading up to these examinations. What are the provisions from a Halachic perspective to attend these examinations?
Thank you for your help,
PS: I have also been asked by a Consultant to assist him with a double toe transfer for amputated fingers on a shabbos in three weeks time. It is an operation that I am unlikely to see throughout my training. Is there any provision for me to attend and assist him with this case on a shabbos?
1. One is not allowed to desecrate Shabbos for the purpose of medical exams. Therefore, you should ask for a special date on account of Sabbath observance. Many western countries make accommodations for religious observance. This solution is best.
If it is not possible to arrange an alternate date, you should request ahead of time to be exempted from the need to write and draw diagrams or other figures on Shabbos.They might agree to this, and perhaps require that you have the diagrams ready for Sunday.
Without such an agreement – since the exam is not pikuach nefesh (life saving) – you may not desecrate Shabbos for the purpose of the exam.
It is worthwhile that you make initial contact in the coming months to allow time for consideration and possible legal action before the anticipated date.
2. Since the double toe transfer is not a life-saving procedure, if your assistance includes activities that are prohibited on Shabbos – you may not perform them. [After you become a certified specialist with absolutely required responsibilities, additional factors will need to be clarified.] If no prohibited activities are needed, you may observe, just as a doctor may learn and read medical articles and books on Shabbos (as ruled by Rav S.Z. Auerbach zt"l).
3. After you become a certified specialist, there are likely to be many additional questions. We are happy to receive them and attempt to answer them in accordance with halacha.
Rabbi Dr Mordechai Halperin
Rabbi Meir Orlian