(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2000 22:12:39 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Medicine on Shabbos

Shoshan in Bais-Medrash Volume 2 Number 4 asks about using a medicine,
Advil, on Shabbos under a doctor's orders, in order to prevent swelling.

Many people shy away from halachic discussions on these matters because of
their complexity. But personally, I think a productive use of email groups
such as Bais-Medrash is discussion of complex halachic areas in order to
elucidate basic principles.

Therefore I am boldly treading into this very complicated area. It will not
surprise me if I make mistakes but I hope after a few issues the basic
principles will be clarified and made known. For just as it is a mitzvah to
know the myriads of cases and opinions in, say the book Shmirath Shabbos
Chilchatha, so too is it a mitzvah to reduce these cases to a few basic
principles. I therefore hope other 'halachic' threads on complex matters be
developed in Bais Medrash.

The 4 basic principles on use of medicine are as follows
1) Matters affecting loss of life (or body organs) supercede the Shabbath
2) Non-life-threatening medical treatment is rabbinically prohibited on
Shabbath because it is normal to grind medicines and grinding is Biblically
3) However if the non-life-threatening symptoms include 3a) fever 3b) bed
riddenness 3c) swelling or any other physically dangerous symptom, then one
may violate rabbinical (but not Biblical) prohibitions
4) Preventive nutrition is permissable if you are not sick (eg if you take
vitamin pills every day).

The basic distinction in allowing rabbinic commandments is between physical
symptoms and pain.  You cannot desecrate shabboth (even Rabbinically) for
pain. But you can desecrate it rabbinically for physical symptoms. In fact
swelling, constricts blood vessels and prevents needed nutrients from
reaching the infected site--hence any medication that reduces swelling (or
ice packs) are permissable.

As I stated originally, I look forward to further postings elucidating this

Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA; Math; RHendel@Towson.Edu;
Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/