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Doctor touching a patient


Dear Rabbi,

Should a physician be shomer negiah? In the office? Out of the office? If he sees non-jewish patients, one has obvious thought he must hold a womans hand or shake to show competence.

Thank you.



See the following post  that it is a biblical commandment to be shomer negiah, and it isn’t a stringency or a “chumrah”. This commandment applies to all Jews regardless of one’s profession. It is permitted though to touch a woman if the reason it is being done is because of a medical need and not because of a relationship of any sort between the two. Therefore a doctor may examine his patient even if it means touching her, when it is being doe solely for the medical need. Therefore outside of the office the doctor is no different than everyone else, and may not touch his patients. This would apply to Jewish and non Jewish patients alike, as we may not have an intimate relationship with any of them. He should not shake or hold her hand to show her competence, as this is relationship oriented, and not medically oriented. The doctor may explain to the woman that for religious reasons he will only touch a woman while making a medical examination, and not because he is not courteous or caring. This will only build the woman’s respect for the doctor, that he is not only competent and caring, but that he is also a man of integrity and inner values.


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