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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Miscellaneous and References (11/12)
Section - Question 19.15: I'm a health care provider? What do I need to know for Jewish patients?

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                                  Answer:
   
   First, thanks for caring enough to ask the question.
   
   If you have a Jewish patient, you should first talk to them to find
   out what their concerns and needs are. These will differ based on the
   movement with which they affiliate. For example, progressive Jews
   (i.e., Reform and other liberal movements) may have less of a concern
   about Kosher food and some of the other laws concerning purity and
   modesty than traditional Jews. However, if you can't talk to them due
   to the medical situation, assume they are strictly traditional until
   you find out otherwise.
   
   The primary concern from your point of view will be food. Traditional
   Jews require strictly Kosher food. If your kitchen has the ability to
   supply such food, great. Note that some hospitals provide both a
   "regular Kosher" and a "strictly Kosher" diet. If a strictly Kosher
   diet is available, let the patient know about it. If they are not able
   to order their food, order from the strictly Kosher diet for them. If
   your hospital does not have Kosher food, DO NOT assume that
   Kosher-style food or any other food is acceptable. Instead, you may
   have to go out an purchase food for that patient. What you want to
   look for is food with "heckshers", or marks indicating that they are
   Kosher. The best known marks are a U in a circle ([5]www.ou.org) or a
   K in a circle ([6]www.ok.org). Kashrus Magazine
   ([7]www.kashrusmagazine.org) has an excellent list of these marks.
   
   You want to aim for ready-to-eat food, so that you don't have to move
   it into a container to cook it. Your kitchen is likely not Kosher;
   cooking the food in a different container will make it non-Kosher. You
   will want to serve it in the original container, unopened if possible,
   so that the patient can see the hecksher. If possible, opt for food
   that doesn't require you to touch the food (i.e., frozen dinners for
   the oven are often preferable to those for the microwave, because for
   the microwave you have to puncture the wrappings). Serve the food with
   plastic utensils that have been individually wrapped, and let the
   patient break the wrappings. Basically, you want to assure the patent
   that you haven't touched the food.
   
   If you can't come up with anything with a hecksher, provide fruit,
   washed but otherwise untouched, with a plastic knife. Fruit is the one
   product that comes naturally in its own sealed package.
   
   Traditional male patients will have a need to pray. If they are
   mobile, and you can provide them with connections with other Jewish
   male adults in the hospital so that they can assemble a minyon (10
   Jewish men), which will facilitate prayer. They should know the
   prayers by heart, if this is a concern to them. If your staff chaplin
   isn't familiar with Judaism, look up an Orthodox synagogue (alas,
   often under Churches in the Yellow Pages) and see if their rabbi can
   come over. If there are no Orthodox synagogues available, look for
   Conservative or Reform synagogues. This order is not intended to show
   any bias towards the movements. A traditional patient will likely be
   more comforatable with a traditional Rabbi, so that is the best first
   option. However, both Conservative and Reform rabbis have experience
   with working with all movements in hospital settings, and can either
   provide the necessary service, or have the contacts to find someone
   who can.
   
   Shabbat may or may not be a concern, depending on the state of the
   patient. In a hospital setting, most patients are stuck in bed, and
   most electrical appliances are necessary for life-saving. Don't ask
   the patient to turn on and off their lights; just leave them on from
   before Shabbat until after, or decide when you want them off. The same
   goes for other discretionary appliances, such as televisions. Don't
   ask the patient to carry things unless necessary for life (such as an
   IV).
   
   With respect to modesty: again, if the situation is life-threatening,
   do what you need to do. If the patient is conscious, ASK THE PATIENT.
   When providing gowns, ensure they provide appropriate coverage when in
   public situations (use two, if necessary).
   
   Lastly, with respect to purity. When dealing with patients of the
   opposite sex, avoid touching unless medically necessary. It is likely
   not a problem, but for traditional patients, it might be upsetting.
   Better safe than sorry.
   
   Finally, remember that Judaism places human life above all else. Thus,
   in a life-threatening situation, do what you need to do to save the
   life, even if that means violating Jewish law. However, if the
   situation isn't immediately threatening, then you should take Jewish
   law into consideration.
   
   For a general statement of principles guiding medical care, see
   [8]http://communities.msn.com/JudaismFAQs&naventryid=154. There is
   also some good information at
   [9]http://www.brooklynhospice.org/brooklynhospice/jhosp1.html and
   [10]http://www.associated.org/agencies/89.htm.

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