A doctor performed surgery on a 19-year-old girl who had no reproductive organs whatsoever. The girl pleaded with the doctor not to reveal to the boy about her condition and the boy didn’t inquire. The doctor asked the Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg zt”l, if he was required to proactively tell the boy about the situation (Tzitz Eliezer 16:4).
There are three issues involved in telling the boy:
1. The question of lashon hara.
2. The girl’s request not to disclose her situation.
3. The oath of confidentiality that every doctor makes.
The Tzitz Eliezer paskens that in this case, all hurdles are cleared and the doctor must tell the boy.
1. Lashon Hara – In a lengthy discussion, the Tzitz Eliezer says that, on the contrary, by not telling the boy, the doctor would be oveir the lav of “Lo sa’amod al dam rei’acha – Do not stand on your brother’s blood.” This aveirah applies even for financial loss and certainly in this case where the consequences to his future are very grave. The Tzitz Eliezer calls this “leading the ox to the slaughterhouse.”
2. The Girl’s Request – Even if the doctor assured the girl that he would not divulge this information, he must do so nevertheless. Even if he swore, it would not be effective, because an oath to violate a mitzvah is not valid.
3. The Doctor’s Professional Oath – Here lies the only hitch. Since the oath covers both permissible cases and cases where he would be oveir an aveirah by keeping his oath, halachically the oath is valid. However, says the Tzitz Eliezer, the doctor is still obligated to be matir neder to nullify the oath in order to save the boy. (He does add that, possibly, he never made the oath to include cases like this and therefore he is not bound by it in this case.)
The Tzitz Eliezer‘s final p’sak is that the doctor is obligated to tell the boy and, for good measure, should do hataras nedarim before three people on his professional oath.
He does, however, advise, as a practical matter, that it is best to let the girl know, as gently as possible, that he will inform the boy. This way, she may agree to tell him personally and save herself tremendous embarrassment. This p’sak, he says, applies in the reverse situation as well.