Around nine years ago, I was involved in an incident that I never told you about. I was in Yerushaliyim, when three terrorists pulled out semi-automatic weapons and were about to open fire on a bus full of women & children. Naturally, I sprang into action. I quickly disarmed the closest terrorist with a quick snap of his neck. Using his weapon, I was able to dispatch the other two with a Chuck Norris-style hip shot, ripping my shirt off in the process showing off my well-toned torso and bulging muscles. However, before the third one was hit, he was able to get a lucky shot, which hit me in the lower abdomen. I was quickly rushed to Bikor Cholim Hospital, where an emergency surgery was performed to save my life.
Well, it was either that or a Hernia operation; I forgot exactly how I got there.
The important part is what happened after the surgery. I was stuck in the hospital for 24 hours. No visitors, no family (my wife claimed that our son had a 104 F temperature. Good excuse), just me, all alone. Oh right! There was an exception to this rule: Every few hours, the nurses shift would change and I would be visited by a group of women, many of whom were frum, and they would come over, and throw open my blanket to see where the gun wound/hernia operation was performed. Did I mention that it was my lower abdomen? Like...very lower? Needless to say, it was a very embarrassing situation that I had to relive every few hours.
A frum doctor asked the “Ztitz Eliezer” if he was allowed to bring students from bed to bed to see all the patients and go over each patient's profile with them. He was worried that this was a breach of confidence between the patient and doctor.
The Ztitz Eliezer answered that it was completely acceptable to have this practice, for two reasons. One, it is the accepted “custom” for doctors to be trailed by students, so they can learn. Everybody going to a hospital is aware of that and accepts it as part of being a patient. And secondly, even though they are students, they still might ask some questions or suggestions that can actually help the doctor improve the patient’s situation.
The doctor had a second question, what of the practice of gathering students around the sick person and showing them the area of the operation or of the sickness? In many cases, they are in places of the body which most people try not to reveal in public, and by doing so, the doctor is embarrassing the patient greatly.
With this, the Ztitz Eliezer brings in a pasuk from this week’s parsha regarding the tzaraas: “To show (the Cohen) on the day of its impurity and the day of its purity, this is the law of the tzaraas” (Vayikra 14: 57).
When a person had tzaraas, he needed to go to the Cohen, who was an expert in it, to determine whether he was pure or impure. “This is the law of the tzaraas” teaches us that ONLY the tzaraas may be shown to the Cohen, not other places of the body, lest the person becomes embarrassed. Therefore, when the doctor wishes to show a group of students personal places on the body of the patient, he needs to ask permission to do so first, since it is forbidden to embarrass the patient in such a way.
It’s an interesting piece of halakha that most people doctors and patients don’t really think about, but it shows us the importance of being careful not to embarrass people, even in medical situations.