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Is there any discussion among the halachic authorities as to whether or not a man can choose to pursue a medical career in gynaecology? The issue that I would presume exists is that unlike other parts of medicine the focus here is solely on the female reproductive system there may be problems of tznius. I have also read anecdotal evidence that there is an increased likelihood of sexual misconduct among those doctors.

Is there any halachic discussion as to the appropriateness (or not) of a man becoming a gynecologist?

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    interesting -- a quick search shows discussions of negiah and yichud but not any underlying issue of tzniyus. – rosends Apr 4 '13 at 13:35
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    @Dan I assumed negiah wasn't an issue in a medical setting and that yichud was not a problem if anyone (such as a nurse) could walk in at any time. Furthermore many doctors have taken to having nurses or others present during examinations to avoid law suits, this might help the yichud issue. – user2110 Apr 4 '13 at 13:39
  • right. Both of those are addressed (at least anecdotally) elsewhere ["professional touch" and "nurse in the room" as answers]. I was just surprised that no one seems to have mentioned the tzniyus angle. – rosends Apr 4 '13 at 14:06
  • This site might be a good resource for info. aojs.org/pmh.asp# – sam Apr 4 '13 at 14:39
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    Is the suggestion that no one should be a gynecologist, women should be gynecologists, or non-Jewish men should do it? – Double AA Apr 5 '13 at 5:33
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H/T Rabbi Torczyner.

Binyan Tzion I:75 (Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger) addresses a rabbi who was asked "may I deliver my sister-in-law's baby?" Halachically, inappropriately touching your sister-in-law is no different than inappropriately touching random married-to-someone-else woman, but there's perhaps a certain "eww" factor that prompted the question.

His ruling:

Image of Binyan Tzion 75 responsum

... [many authorities] agreed with Shach, that while deeply focused on one's profession there is no prohibition on touching a prohibited woman; and the Kreisi UPleisi [R. Yonasan Eibeschutz] wrote that it is common practice that a woman with a wound in her stomach or other private areas, that doctors will look at it.

Though in my humble opinion, a good G-d fearing doctor will attempt to avoid delivering babies if another doctor is available, as regardless it is distasteful and it will bring one to inappropriate thoughts. HOWEVER those who are lenient certainly have what upon to rely ... therefore for Jewish doctors who are in the practice of delivering the babies of married women [other than their wives] even if non-Jewish doctors are available, delivering one's sister-in-law would also be permissible. That's how it appears to me.

6

R Abraham Abraham (Nishmat Avraham, vol. 2, p. 134) writes that "Rav (Shlomo Zalman) Auerbach told me that a man may learn a medical or paramedical profession, since they involve pikuach nefesh". He doesn't differentiate between gynaecology and others (and gynaecology certainly involves pikuach nefesh).

He continues: "however each person must decide for himself if he will be able to control his inclinations and work in an objective manner. R (Yehoshua) Neuwirth told me that it would be best, if possible, for him to be married before he embarks on such a course of studies".

He writes, based on a Ritva (Kidushin 81a, see also Pitchei Tshuva Even Haezer 21:3) that the halacha depends on a man's perception of himself. If he fears that because of his inclinations and impure thoughts he should put himself at a distance, he should do so. On the other hand, if he knows that his inclinations are well-controlled and he has no sinful thoughts, he may speak to, and look at, a married woman.

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The Tzitz Eliezer, a posek who specialized in medical issues, dealt with the issue at length, unfortunately I don't have access to the index or Bar Ilan search engine currently. However, from a anecdotal side the Rabbis of the PUAH institutes decided that only men, and not women, should be speakers at a gynecological conference.

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    Did you ever find the Tzitz Eliezer? Please edit the answer and ping me if you ever do. Thanks. – Yehoshua Apr 25 '13 at 22:25
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The question of male doctors treating female patients was raised by R. David Holzer to R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik:

The Rav Thinking Aloud p. 123

[DH:] Can male doctors treat women?

You should use the best medical care, regardless of gender.

[DH:] What if their care is equal?

Then of course the woman should use a female doctor.

Note that no distinction was made between different types of doctors. Also note that while the question seems to have been phrased from the doctor's point of view (i.e. is the doctor allowed to treat the patient?) the answer seems to be phrased from the patient's point of view (i.e the patient can use the doctor). This might imply that though the patient should always choose the best doctor regardless of gender, the doctor should perhaps not choose an opposite gender patient, or not from the outset go into a field (like gynecology) that is devoted to opposite gender patients.

  • If I may, the question was not whether one can go to a doctor of the other sex, but whether a person could become a doctor and "put himself in trouble" – mbloch Aug 30 '18 at 17:40
  • @mbloch That's why I noted that the question as posed to R. Soloveitchik was in fact about the man "putting himself in trouble". – Alex Aug 30 '18 at 17:41
  • But your conclusion "the doctor should perhaps not choose etc." is a stretched reading... R Soloveitchik might have meant that or not - no way to know from his words here. He might have agreed it is OK to be an obgyn if one is very good and providing superior care – mbloch Aug 30 '18 at 18:07
  • @mbloch That's why I wrote "might imply". – Alex Aug 30 '18 at 18:09

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