Muslim medical students get picky

Posted on October 7, 2007


 Sunday Times, London, Oct 7, 2007

Daniel Foggo and Abul Taher


SOME Muslim medical students are refusing to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases because they claim it offends their religious beliefs, write Daniel Foggo and Abul Taher.

Some trainee doctors say learning to treat the diseases conflicts with their faith, which states that Muslims should not drink alcohol and rejects sexual promiscuity.

A small number of Muslim medical students have even refused to treat patients of the opposite sex. One male student was prepared to fail his final exams rather than carry out a basic examination of a female patient.

The religious objections by students have been confirmed by the British Medical Association (BMA) and General Medical Council (GMC), which both stressed that they did not approve of such actions.

It will intensify the debate sparked last week by the disclosure that Sainsbury’s is permitting Muslim checkout operators to refuse to handle customers’ alcohol purchases on religious grounds. It means other members of staff have to be called over to scan in wine and beer for them at the till.

Critics, including many Islamic scholars, see the concessions as a step too far, and say Muslims are reneging on their professional responsibilities.

This weekend, however, it emerged that Sainsbury’s is also allowing its Muslim pharmacists to refuse to sell the morning- after pill to customers. At a Sainsbury’s store in Nottingham, a pharmacist named Ahmed declined to provide the pill to a female reporter posing as a customer. A colleague explained to her that Ahmed did not sell the pill for “ethical reasons”. […]

Both the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Doctors and Dentist Association said they were aware of students opting out but did not support them. [more]

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Note from Rafik Beekun: It is unfortunate when some Muslims forget about the balanced view that Islam holds towards life. The code of ethics adopted the Islamic Medical Association of North America clearly indicates that a Muslim doctor should give his/her patient the best possible care. On page 9 of the IMANA code of ethics , it states that “We do not discriminate against any patient on the basis of their lifestyle.” Similarly, with respect to the treatment of patients of the opposite sex, this code of ethics states, “IMANA encourages but does not mandate same sex health care provider. Examination of a patient of the opposite sex is allowed in the presence of a third person of the same sex as that of the patient. In case of a minor, one of the parents’ presences is desirable. Only necessary examination needs to be done. […] Medical or nursing students may be allowed during examination of a female patient [more].”

Please click here to read the Islamic Medical Association of North America’s code of ethics for Muslim doctors.