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Question

I work in a diabetes clinic in the Mid-West. We started a Jewish man on insulin injections in order to control his diabetes. His concern was that he would not be able to draw up the insulin and inject himself on the Sabbath as this would break the Sabbath laws-unfortunately we were unable to answer his concerns, and could only suggest that he discuss this issue with his Rabbi when he returned home, however it is important to his health to take the insulin every day, to test his blood glucose levels every day, and to eat an appropriate diet.

What would be your response to his concern of drawing up and injecting the insulin on the sabbath (or other holy days) as well as doing a self blood glucose test using a glucose meter, and/or taking the oral medication a person might require in order to control his diabetes or other medical problem.

Answer

A diabetic person may inject himself with insulin, in order to lower the sugar level, on the Sabbath and other holidays - (source: "Shmirat Shabbat" by R' Y. Neuwirth, I 33:21).

However, he should prepare, as much as possible, all the paraphernalia, sterilization, etc., before the Sabbath. The area of injection should be cleaned before the injection, by directly applying the alcohol, or using a synthetic cloth; not cotton - (ibid 33:8-10).

As to the glucose meter use, if it does not cause any bleeding, it may surely be used on the Sabbath and other holidays. If there is bleeding (blood leaving the skin into the meter, or outside), then if it can be done on another day of the week, one should refrain from performing it on Shabbat. If for medical reasons it has to be done on Shabbat as well, then it may be performed.

Notwithstanding, if there is any danger of life involved, all actions deemed necessary, may be done on the Sabbath, in order to save or maintain life - (source: ibid 40:28-9).

With blessings from Jerusalem,

Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Aish.com

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