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I was looking at Yoreh De'ah 40:5 (יו"ד סימן ש"מ ס"ק ה) and Moed Katan 25b (כה עמוד ב), which require Kriyah (garment-rending) for all who are there at the time of death. It would seem to me that an EMT, EMS member, doctor, nurse, or any other emergency first responder who is there at the time of death must rip Kriyah for all the places they respond to when a death of a Jewish patient occurs. Also a doctor who regularly see patients die must tear Kriyah every time, as he can lose many patients in a single day (oncology, cardiology). What is the approach with ripping Kriyah in these cases?

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I read the title and thought: "kriyah would only be an issue if their shift went through Shacharis, no?"! –  HodofHod Apr 3 '12 at 22:00
    
I'd not be surprised to find Nishmas Avraham (is that the name of it? The book on medical matters) deals with it. –  msh210 Apr 3 '12 at 23:32

3 Answers 3

Nit'ei Gavriel (Aveilus 4:4) cites various sources that there is a common practice to not tear kriyah in this instance anyway (and in note יב he mentions other variations, such as leaving a button undone for a while, or tearing kriyah at the moment of death only for a distinguished person).

In 4:7 he also writes that it is indeed not customary for doctors or nurses to tear kriyah, and in note טז various reasons for this are offered - although he also cites a statement in the name of R. Moshe Feinstein that indeed they do need to do so.

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The chalenge of quoting the Nitei Gavriel in this context is that he records mainly the minhag (practice) of Jerusalem. Which doesn't always match up with the practices of the rest of the world. Rav Moshe would agree that an MD does not have to tear kriya if the garment is not ones own. In fact it would be forbidden because one is not allowed to destroy another's property. –  Eytan Yammer Apr 4 '12 at 21:04
    
@EytanYammer: Are you sure about Nit'ei Gavriel recording mainly Jerusalemite practices? That is true of Gesher Hachaim (by R. Y.M. Tykoczinski), but I was under the impression that NG tries to be more inclusive. –  Alex Apr 5 '12 at 16:26
    
The geshe HaHaim doefinitely does this. THe Major difference is that NG will usually say this where as the GH usually will not point this out. Even in the particular case cited above we talks about the minhag of Ir Hakodesh Y"m. The causion was really only to make sure that the halakha one quotes is not said specifically as the minhag of yerushalayim. –  Eytan Yammer Apr 6 '12 at 2:01

I will find the source later but one only has to tear kriya when they are present at the time that a person dies. Additionally one only has to tear kriya on clothing that you own. If you are wearing a uniform owned by the hospital (scrubs) or are a paramedic wearing uniforms issued by the company than you are exempt. I was a paramedic for many years. My rav at the time paskened that I should tear kriya only if wearing my own shirt and the person who died was a Jew.

See the Tzitz Eliezer 13:35 section ד on this page.

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+1. Indeed, that point about scrubs, etc., is quoted in the Nit'ei Gavriel in my answer. –  Alex Apr 4 '12 at 4:00

I know of one doctor who did it when he was present when a Jewish patient died (and there was no family present). Not sure of any standard procedure or the like beyond that.

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