For the week ending 28 May 2005 / 19 Iyyar 5765

The Unwanted Ambulance

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: A fellow got so drunk on Purim that he fell unconscious in the street. Passersby who saw him lying motionless feared for his health and called an ambulance. He was hospitalized for several days at the end of which it was discovered that nothing was wrong with him and he was released. When he subsequently received a hefty bill for the ambulance service and the hospital stay he refused to pay on the grounds that he had been completely healthy and did not require any medical attention so there was no reason for him to pay. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The ruling issued by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, in this case was that the fellow has to pay. Those who ordered the ambulance which took him to the hospital did so out of concern for his health. Should people who act in this fashion be required to bear the expenses incurred by their efforts, no one will be prepared to make such an effort and this could spell the difference between life and death.

A similar case came before the rav of a man who started bleeding badly in a public mikveh. People there immediately called an ambulance. The bleeding fellow, however, insisted that he was capable of bandaging himself as he had done on previous occasions. When the ambulance arrived the paramedics saw that he had done an expert job and there was no need for their services. He too balked at paying the bill he later received from Magen David Adom for their ambulance service. Here too the rav ruled that since it appeared to everyone around him that his life was in danger, they were correct in ordering the ambulance and it was his obligation to pay for it.

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