In the August edition of the Journal of Critical Care, Hadassah Medical Organization physicians, headed by Prof. Vernon van Heerden, director of Hadassah’s General Intensive Care Unit, explain how they went about persuading religious leaders to approve shaving the beards of COVID-19 patients who had to be ventilated.

While the commandment in the Book of Leviticus says “not to round off the side growth on your head or destroy the side growth of your beard,” the doctors explain that facial hair “interferes with routine care in the ICU, such as fixation of the endotracheal tube, proper mouth care, placing of central lines and tracheostomy.” 

The physicians promised the rabbis that they would trim as little hair as possible and use only an electric shaver. Despite the rabbis’ approval, Prof. Van Heerden writes, “We had to ask each family during the daily telephone call for their permission to shave the beards of our patients.” 

He adds, “It’s only a small matter and may be of no consequence in another country or another circumstance, but it is very important to our patients, and we are careful to attend to this culturally sensitive matter, even at a time of great stress.”

Prof. Van Heerden is also the latest doctor featured in the Hadassah On Call podcast series.  To hear his episode, click here

Photo credit: Bruno Lavi