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A twelve year-old boy fell off of the monkey bars on Shabbat


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 14, 5779
This boy severely injured his arm in his fall. Are we allowed to put a cast on his arm? Are we allowed to do surgery on him, which would help his arm heal faster and better, but is not completely necessary? Are we allowed to give him some medicine in order to alleviate his pain?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is not clear to me who is asking the question for who – that is who is the “we” in the question? Are you Jewish, and is the boy Jewish? Are you the doctor? Or are you taking him to a doctor – is the doctor Jewish or not? In general, in the situation you described, when a person falls on Shabbat, and they have really hurt themselves, there is a real possibility that there could be danger to their life. Perhaps an internal organ has been damaged which could cause internal bleeding. Therefore they definitely should be taken to a medical center to be looked at by a doctor – and one should break Shabat if needed to get them there (such as driving or calling an ambulance etc). If the doctors decide that there is a risk (even a slight risk) to life – all treatment must be given, whether the doctor is Jewish or not, and everything that needs to be done (including operating etc) should be done as soon as needed. If the doctors decide that there is no danger to life, but the arm is broken and needs to be set – then medicines may definitely be taken for pain. A non Jew may preform all tasks that are needed – such as putting the arm in a cast, x-ray etc. If only a Jew is available for this task, then the law is stricter – but you should be in touch again if this is the case, as the laws of how a Jew may break Shabat to care for a broken limb when there is no danger to life at all, are more complex. I hope this is of help to you – but as I wrote, it is not clear exactly what your situation is, and perhaps if you write with more details I will be able to answer more clearly. Blessings
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