Muslim Culture and the Practice of Medicine: Issues of Teaching a Muslim Medical Student in the United States
I teach first and second year medical students how to relate to patients, take a medical history and perform the physical examination. My medical school, as do all medical schools in the United States accept students from all different cultures and religions. There are various issues involved in teaching students which arise and need to be resolved despite they have already been accepted to medical school and have begun their studies. I have recently been made aware of medical student issues that happen to be related to students of Muslim culture and religion. The issues do not arise with every Muslim student as far as I know but it has arisen and I really don’t know what the issues represent and how to deal with them yet meet my responsibility to develop a professionally competent physician.
Some of the issues, occurring in Great Britain, are described in an article in the October 7 2007 issue of the UK TimesOnline an excerpt of which follows:
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.
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
I am pleased to have visitors to my blog from all over the world including countries where there is a strong Muslim culture. I would most appreciate visitors from those countries to write here and educate me how medicine is practiced there in terms of for example, physical examination of patients of opposite gender. Is the body exposed in any way (if so, what way?) and what degree of touching (or what we call palpation) is carried out? Are there aspects of the history which are not allowed to be asked a patient? What are the standards of medical practice in Muslim countries? Are there special instructions that are given to medical students in those countries to be in keeping with the Muslim culture and religion? What do you think should be United States medical school teachers’ response to Muslim students’ requests for excluding asking certain questions or excluding examinations on certain genders? I truly look forward to learn. Please help me. ..Maurice.