Jewish Ethical Perspective on Physician Risk to Pandemic

Considering the current CPVID-19 pandemic, health workers and managers have been thrown into a series of ethical dilemmas on how to protect themselves from the risk of infection while still exercising their professional responsibility of caring for the patients (Solnica et al., 2020). Nurses, physicians and other healthcare practitioners have the professional and moral obligation to treat patients and face harm during the pandemic. However, the ethical question that arises is whether these health workers deserve the risk and whether their families and other patients deserve the risk too. But, the Jewish ethical perspectives, as well as various codes of ethics, give interesting insights into this issue.

First, the Jewish ethical perspectives opine that health practitioners have the obligation not to stand by and see their patients’ lives in danger (Solnica et al., 2020). Questions as to the obligation’s limits are also addressed. For instance, from a non-clinical approach to medical care, it is a Jewish tradition to show concern, empathize and care for patients even if they have communicable diseases – the art of medicine. Secondly, Jewish law requires that as a health professional, one is required to use their expertise to heal all patients including those with communicable diseases. This law correlates to the modern perspectives of ethical responsibilities that all medical practitioners bear to their patients.

Another Jewish perspective that relates to this issue is that societal needs mandate physicians to care for all patients including those with communicable diseases. Like soldiers who have the responsibility to protect society regardless of the eminent risks, so do the physicians who have the responsibility of caring for patients regardless of their communicable diseases (Iserson, 2020).

Finally, the Jews argue that physicians have the responsibility to endanger themselves because they earn a living from it. Health workers are not different from other high-risk workers such as construction workers who earn a living from risky jobs (McGuire et al, 2020). therefore, physicians are not obligated to care for patients with communicable diseases but are permitted to take the risks involved in it.

Ideally, these Jewish perspectives corroborate with the assertions by Hajar (2017) that any physician who accepts to bear all the responsibilities that come with the job cannot avoid the role of caring for patients with communicable diseases (Hajar, 2017). When one agrees to take up the job of a physician, they impliedly accept to take the risks associated with saving the patient’s life. Solnica et al. (2020) termed this a personal obligation that accompanies the oath of practice taken by medics as they enter the profession.

But, one of the ways the pandemic has changed the management aspects of practice as it relates to the risk of care is the level of protective care hospitals accord to their staff. The question open to debate is how much a physician is protected to mitigate or reduce the risk of harm. As such, hospital management is called upon to identify the risks of exposure and acquire all the necessary protective materials to enable physicians to safely deliver care to patients with communicable diseases.

To conclude, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the subject of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and its role in addressing this ethical issue. It is unquestionable as to the role of healthcare professionals in providing care for all patients, including those with communicable diseases. But it is prudent to protect oneself from infection as they do so. Thus, PPEs have become one of the most essential ‘tools of work’ that healthcare managers could provide to employees.


  • Hajar, R. (2017). The physician’s oath: historical perspectives. Heart Views: The Official Journal of the Gulf Heart Association, 18(4), 154. doi: 10.4103/HEARTVIEWS.HEARTVIEWS_131_17
  • Iserson, K. V. (2020). Healthcare ethics during a pandemic. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 21(3), 477. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2020.4.47549
  • McGuire, A. L., Aulisio, M. P., Davis, F. D., Erwin, C., Harter, T. D., Jagsi, R., Klitzman, R., Macauley, R., Racine, E., Wolf, S. M., Wynia, M., Wolpe, P. R. & The COVID-19 Task Force of the Association of Bioethics Program Directors (ABPD). (2020). Ethical challenges arising in the COVID-19 pandemic: an overview from the association of bioethics program directors (ABPD) Task force. The American Journal of Bioethics, 20(7), 15-27.
  • Solnica, A., Barski, L., & Jotkowitz, A. (2020). The healthcare worker at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic: a Jewish ethical perspective. Journal of Medical Ethics, 46(7), 441-443.