Women Visiting Male Doctors

226. In general, a man should try to visit a male doctor, and a woman, a female doctor. However, if no doctor of the same gender is available, it is permitted to be treated by a doctor of the opposite gender.1

A Visit to A Doctor’s Office

227. Women should be made aware of the issue of Yichud when seeing a doctor. They must know the halachos of Yichud before the visit so that they may avert the serious prohibition of Yichud.2

228. A visit to a doctor’s office may present a problem of Yichud and is only permitted under the following conditions: a) the meeting takes place in a public office or clinic during office hours when there are people in the waiting room and members of staff (e.g. nurses and secretaries) at work, and b) the door to the doctor’s office is open slightly or closed but not locked, and other members of staff may enter at any time.3 Therefore, when making an appointment with the doctor, she should schedule it at a time when other members of staff will be present in the office.

229. As long as there are members of staff who may disturb the Yichud situation, then a woman may enter the doctor’s office alone. Therefore in a doctor’s office in which the doctor, a nurse and a secretary work, and the nurse or secretary may enter the doctor’s examining room or private office at any moment, a woman may go into the room alone with the doctor as long as the door remains unlocked.4

230. If nobody usually enters, even a nurse, without permission, then a woman may not be alone with the doctor. She should request from the doctor that the door be left slightly open (if the door opens to a waiting room where other people are waiting or other staff members are present).5 If another female nurse is present in the room, the door may be closed but not locked.6

231. If the door to the doctor’s office is locked and nobody has permission to enter, then even if there are people in the waiting room, it is Yichud unless the door is left slightly open. However if there is a member of staff who has a key to the office and who has permission to enter at any time, then the seclusion may be permitted.7 Furthermore, if the woman’s husband has accompanied her to the office and is sitting in the waiting room, then there is no issue of Yichud.8

232. In the above situations, the Poskim discuss at length the permissibility of a woman entering a locked doctor’s office in the event of Baaloh B’ir. Some Poskim are stringent.9 Other Poskim are more lenient.10 In practice, when necessary one may rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir in this case.11 However, she should request from the doctor that the door be left slightly open, or closed but unlocked.12 Because there is a question among the Poskim in this case, it is certainly best that the woman be accompanied to the doctor’s either by her husband, another shomer, or another woman friend.13

233. A woman should not be ashamed to raise the issue of Yichud with the doctor. She should make sure that: a) the door will be left open, or closed but not locked; and b) the staff members have permission to enter the doctor’s office unannounced. If staff members do not usually come in, she may request that a member of staff be with her in the office, or at least come in from time to time.14

234. All that has been said above about the question of Yichud when visiting a doctor applies just as well to a man who visits a female doctor. Therefore, he should only visit the doctor during office hours, and the door should be unlocked and staff be able to enter at any time.15

A Visit to the Doctor’s Home or Private Rooms

235. If the visit is to a private office, e.g. seeing a consultant in his private rooms or at the doctor’s home, and a) nobody else is home, or b) there is only one nurse or secretary sitting outside the office, then there is a serious question of Yichud.16

236. In such a case a married woman should preferably be accompanied to the doctor’s appointment by her husband.17 If this is not possible, then she may rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir18 and she should request that the door be left unlocked.19 However, it would be preferable20 that she take with her other shomrim such as: a) a child aged five to nine; b) her father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother or son, c) her mother-in-law, or d) her stepdaughter. Alternatively, she may be accompanied by another woman friend, and they should request that the door be left unlocked.21

237. If the woman is not married and no nurse is in attendance, and the doctor is in his private rooms or at home, then there is definitely a question of Yichud. It would also be questionable if the doctor were to leave the door of the home open, since even in that situation, no one would enter his private examination room unannounced for fear that they might disturb an examination in progress. In such a case, she should definitely be accompanied by a shomer or, alternatively, be accompanied by another woman who has the status of Baaloh B’ir.22

238. In the above case, if there is a single nurse or secretary present at the doctor’s home or private rooms, then it would be permitted for a woman to take with her another woman friend (even unmarried). The Yichud situation would be allowed for this would constitute the permissible status of one man with three women.23

239. If the visit is to a private office in the doctor’s home, and the doctor is a Jew, and his wife is at home, then there is no question of Yichud, as long as the doctor’s wife could enter at any moment.24 If the doctor is not Jewish, seclusion is prohibited even if his wife is at home.25

240. Some Poskim write that if members of the doctor’s household are home and could enter at any time, or even if they are not at home but have a key to the home and they could enter whenever they wish — including entry into the doctor’s office at home — then this would constitute a Pesach Posuach which would serve to permit Yichud.26 This would not help, however if the door were locked from the inside with a latch, for then no one could enter without the door being opened from the inside.

Home Visitations

241. If a doctor or other man in the medical profession makes a home visit to a woman in her home, then the door should be left open.27 If the door is shut, the visit is still permitted if her husband is in the city or if other family members have a key and they may enter at any time.28

A Hospital

242. One must also be aware of the Yichud issue in a hospital. If a patient is in an open ward, then there is usually no problem of Yichud because staff members are present day and night. However if a person is in a private room — and particularly in small private clinics — then a patient should always make sure that the door to his or her room is unlocked while being attended to by a nurse or doctor of the opposite gender.29

A Scan

243. Having a scan, if nobody else is present in the room apart from the patient and a member of staff, poses a question of Yichud. It may only be permitted when there are shomrim in a nearby room.30

An Ambulance

244. If a woman needs to travel to the hospital — either because she is sick or to give birth — it is preferable that she be accompanied by her husband or another shomer (such as a child shomer).31 However, if nobody is available she may go in the ambulance alone.32

Pikuach Nefesh

245. The prohibition of Yichud is waived in the face of danger to life.33 Therefore a woman in mortal danger may be treated by a male doctor even if they are in a Yichud situation, and vice versa. If possible the door should be left open to create a Pesach Posuach.

246. Therefore, if a Jewish male member of one of the emergency services (Police, Fire Department, ambulance or Hatzalah) is called upon to take care of a single woman, heshould leave the front door open upon entering the house.

247. A female doctor or midwife may travel with another man in an emergency situation, even if they are in Yichud.

248. A social worker who is called out by a client of the opposite gender who is suicidal or who has taken an overdose may be in Yichud with the patient as long as the case poses a question of Pikuach Nefesh. If the social worker is called out for a problem which is at present not life-threatening but if not treated could become life-threatening, then Yichud is permitted. However, if the social worker is called out for a situation which is definitely not life-threatening (e.g. a mentally ill patient who is creating a disturbance in the middle of the night), then the social worker should be accompanied by a shomer.

The Sick

249. The prohibition of Yichud also applies to a patient who has been hospitalized, even if he or she is very sick. Only if it is a male patient who has been medically diagnosed as impotent may one be lenient. However, even in such a case one should be careful because of Maris Ayin.34

250. Yichud is prohibited with a woman who is in labor.35

Doctors and Their Staff

251. Jewish doctors, medical personnel and caregivers must be well aware of the Yichud issue.36 It is highly commendable that Jewish medical professionals have a Yichud policy in their practice.37

252. A male doctor may not be alone with a female nurse before the office opens or after hours unless precautions are taken to prevent Yichud.

253. The same is true in a hospital setting, particularly late at night or in the early hours of the morning when the corridors of the hospital are very quiet, since in this case a closed but unlocked door of a room would not constitute a Pesach Posuach. The problem may be exacerbated by the fact that a medical team working closely together would be considered Libo Gas Boh. Therefore, a doctor and a nurse should not be alone in a room in a hospital late at night or very early in the morning unless the door to the room is literally open and there is a chance that someone may come in.

254. A male surgeon may not perform an operation when only a female nurse and the patient are present if the patient is heavily anesthetized. Likewise, in the same situation a female surgeon may not perform surgery when only a male nurse is present.

255. A Jewish nurse or medical secretary must be careful not to be locked in a room together with a doctor when other staff cannot enter. It is common that secretaries have much paperwork to do once patients have left the office. Secretaries must be careful not to remain in a situation where there could be Yichud.

Therapy / Counseling

256. It is best that a woman see a female therapist, and a man, a male therapist wherever possible. When there is no one else as qualified as a therapist of the opposite gender, then it is permitted to see that person as long as one of the aforementioned heterim of Yichud are in place. It should be noted that a woman who visits a therapist may not rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir, since she develops a close relationship with the therapist and he is considered a Libo Gas Boh.38

257. A male therapist or counselor whose profession involves speaking to women privately — or vice versa — must be aware of the Yichud issue. This is certainly the case where one gives a home consultation. Before any consultation, adequate arrangements must be made to prevent Yichud.

Caregivers

258. A single man who is disabled and needs a caregiver should take a man as a caregiver and not a woman, even if he is very old.39

259. A disabled woman who needs care should only employ a female caregiver.

A Night Nurse

260. A single woman who works as a night nurse should consult a Rav if she has to care for an elderly or sick man through the night.