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No forced Saturdays

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2008-04-01



Orthodox Jewish doctors religious rights to not work during Shabbat will not be infringed under plans by the Government to encourage GPs to open in the evening and weekends.

In a letter to the Board of Deputies, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said Jewish doctors would not be expected to break Shabbat laws.

"I can assure you that under our proposals to extend GP’s hours, no Jewish doctor would be expected or obligated to break Sabbath Laws. In fact, no individual GP will be under compulsion to work on Saturday," Bradshaw wrote.

Commenting on the letter, Board of Deputies president Henry Grunwald said it was a "welcome outcome" as the communal organisation had had letters of concern from doctors.

Professor Dr David Katz, vice chair of the Board of Deputies’ Defence and Group Relations Committee and chairman of the Jewish Medical Association (UK) said: "This is a very welcome development. Traditionally all Jewish doctors in the UK have had to balance their religious outlook with their obligation to fulfil the "mitzvah" of pikuach nefesh ("saving life"), which takes precedence even over the Sabbath laws."

He added: "However, the question raised here was different: whether, despite valid and acceptable conscientious objections, observant Jewish doctors were to be obligated, on administrative and managerial grounds, to undertake more general tasks on Saturdays, which would infringe these Sabbath laws."