11:54am Thursday 02 July 2020

Ignoring an Islamic patient's religious practices could lead to poor health

Reposted from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. –  Physicians need to accommodate religious and cultural values when providing health care to patients from diverse backgrounds, says a University of Michigan emergency physician in the current issue of Journal of Medical Ethics.

“The first step to accommodating a patient’s religious values and practices is to understand what they are and how deeply rooted they are in the patient’s belief system,” says Aasim I. Padela, M.D., an emergency physician, instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation® Clinical Scholar at the U-M Health System.

With approximately 7 million Muslims in the United States, Islam is currently the fastest-growing religion in the United States and worldwide. According to Padela, some Muslim populations in the United States have higher rates of diseases like breast and ovarian cancer. Modesty concerns might interfere with a Muslim woman’s early screening, and may indicate a greater need for same-gender providers.

“Cross-gender ethics are not just cultural, but rather are deeply rooted in the Islamic religious faith,” Padela says. “Health care providers need a better understanding of how religious values and ethics can affect the care a patient seeks and then receives. When we accommodate our patients’ religious practices, we provide them with a more holistic quality of care.”

Padela’s paper, “Muslim Patients And Cross-Gender Interactions In Medicine: An Islamic Bioethical Perspective,” provides a series of practice recommendations to help physicians better accommodate Islamic religious ethics. Practice recommendations include:

  • Dress Code: Understanding that a patient whose religion requires modesty may not feel comfortable changing into an examination gown. Padela offers a number of alternatives.
  • Seclusion: Having a chaperone or leaving a door slightly ajar during internal examinations would meet the requirements of Islamic law.
  • Gender Relations: For patients who follow Islamic ethics concerning cross-gender interaction—when all else is equal—physicians of the same religion and gender are preferred, followed by a non-Muslim of the same gender whenever possible.

A practicing emergency physician, Padela conducts research in the Greater Detroit area on Arab and Muslim health. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, he has conducted multiple studies on the influence of religion in Muslim patient and health care provider behaviors, health care challenges and disparities in American Muslim populations, and the ways physicians view requests for cultural accommodations. He is also a fellow at the American Muslim think tank the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; he is a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and he works closely with Dar-ul-Qasim, an Islamic educational institution, to probe the frontiers of Islamic bioethics.


About the Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars® program
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars® program has fostered the development of physicians who are leading the transformation of health care in the United States through positions in academic medicine, public health and other leadership roles for three decades. Through this program, future leaders learn to conduct innovative research and to work with communities, organizations, practitioners and policy-makers on issues important to the health and well-being of all Americans. For more information, visit www.rwjcsp.unc.edu.

The research findings presented here are those of the researcher and are not necessarily the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Media contact: Heather Guenther
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 734-764-2220

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