The United States of America is thought to be the melting pot of all countries. People from all over the world immigrated here, started families and made America their home, whether they wanted to or they were forced. There are over 300 practiced religions in the United States and these religions impact people in their everyday lives. One of these religions is the Islamic belief system. Muslims are known as the followers. There are countless reasons as to why one would feel it is significant to look into the Islamic religion. I feel it is crucial to look into the Islamic religion through the medical field. In the United States there are traditional health care practices which doctors adamantly abide to. When considering the Muslim religion, what do health care providers do when traditional health care practices do not accommodate to people’s needs and beliefs? Followers of the Islamic religion, specifically women, have religious guidelines which make it hard for them to receive medical attention when necessary. Therefore all doctors must be able to objectively analyze these belief systems at any opportunity and do anything in their power to accommodate the patient.
Muslim women have a strict moral code to which they must adhere to in order to preserve their relationship with God and keep it as pure as possible. The rules are states in the Quran, the religious text for Muslims. Women wear the hijab, the niqab, the khimar and even the veil. The reason for the attire to be worn at all times is because men view a woman’s body as temptation. If a man see’s a part of the woman’s body in which he feels tempted he will not be punished for the feeling of temptation or even acting upon it. It is the woman’s fault for showing it. The only time it is acceptable for women to not be fully covered is in front of a man is when the male is a father, brother or husband. Muslims think if a women is in a room alone with an unrelated man, the only other person in the room is Satan. There is temptation, which can lead to sin. Therefore, women who are not blood related to a man or related through marriage are prohibited to be alone in the room with the man in a place where sexual intercourse could occur or where these two people can be accused of sexual intercourse. These rules are included throughout the Quran.
Islamic rules regarding the way a woman’s body is represented are different compared to the rules of other religions that are found in the United States because they are so much stricter regarding a women’s body. Because stricter rules are in place to preserve a woman’s relationship with God, it is hard for Muslims rules to be respected in many areas, especially the medical field in the United States. When a Muslim women goes to the doctor, she must see only a woman doctor. She is prohibited by the rules stated in the Quran from seeing a male doctor. Even during medical examinations, Muslim women will refused to be touched by, or alone in a room with a man whom she is not blood related to or married to. During yearly examinations, mammograms and visits to the gynecologist, women have the ability to control the gender of their doctor. When a Muslim woman’s father, brother or husband is with them, the men do the talking (ISPI). But when there are unexpected emergencies the circumstances are different. In emergency rooms, 62 percent of doctors are male and 38 percent of doctors are female (Medscape). These are the times when traditional medical practices do not accommodate peoples’ beliefs, such as Muslims.
For instance, in 2010 a Muslim woman arrived in the emergency room in an ambulance. She had fallen; 48 hours after falling she was unable to urinate or defecate. She felt it was necessary to call 911 because of her accident. Upon arriving to the hospital, she was put in a conflicting position, the only doctor on staff was a male but she was in immense pain. When the doctor heard the news, he immediately thought her injury could be a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries, if not treated, can lead to death. The doctor was able to reason with the woman and together they decided with gloves on and another nurse in the room, exterior exams would be okay. Although he could exam the woman by touching her skin with the barrier of the latex gloves, one exam he felt was crucial to perform was the rectal exam. A rectal exam would indicate a spinal cord injury due to loss of anal tone or internal bleeding. Both of which could be life threatening. The woman consistently denied the anal exam. At this point in time, the doctor had done all he could. The doctor was criticized by many other physicians for omitting the rectal exam. The Muslim woman could have died on the table in front of him. He could have been charged for neglect if she had died. But her religion and the rules stated in the religious text she followed, wouldn’t allow for this type of medical examination (Rabin).
In the medical field, abiding to religious beliefs is known as moral relativism. Doctors are expected to do everything they can to respect all cultures. As the Muslim’s story in the emergency room showed, health care providers abiding to moral relativism isn’t always an option. So the big question is, what do doctors in the United States do about the problem of traditional health care practices not accommodating people’s needs? It is not possible for one male and one female doctor to be on staff in the emergency room at all times. There is a shortage of doctors. Although female nurses are on staff, they are not able or trained to do much of the work of doctors. The power of overcoming the predicament of what to do when traditional health care practices do not accommodate people’s needs and beliefs, particularly for Muslim women, is in the hands of the health care systems that establish health care practices. The reason the power is in the hands of the health care systems that establish health care practices is because it is the health care systems that establish health care practices who created the base upon which traditional health care practices were built. Therefore it will be the health care systems that establish health care practices who opens the eyes of many in order to increase and enhance the moral relativism which doctors abide to.
The concept of traditional health care practices not accommodating people’s needs and beliefs in the United States is pertinent to our class because we focus on world power and its direct impact on women and children. Muslim women are being impacted in the medical field due to the fact that they have firm beliefs about how their body is seen, touched and viewed by men including medical professionals. For most American people, going to the doctors is a safe and trusting environment where you don’t feel violated. For Muslim women, it is still a safe environment but they have more specific guidelines in which they need to adhere to in order to preserve their relationship with God. Although Muslim women have different needs when going to the doctors, their needs should be respected.
Jenny Nordberg’s The Underground Girls of Kabul introduces the concept of a basha posh to the world. A basha posh is a girl who is dressed as and lives as a boy from birth until puberty. The concept of a basha posh is an extremely common phenomenon within subsets of Afghan culture. Nordberg states in Afghan culture, the most common way to produce, or give birth to, a son is to act like you did after birth. Treat the newborn girl as a boy. The concept of a basha posh is a traditional medical practice within the Afghan culture where even the doctor supports the idea that the child born, no matter the gender at birth, is a boy (69). If the idea of labeling your child as a boy, even if it is a girl after birth, is brought to America, many doctors would consider this patient to have psychological issues.
With an increased awareness on the many religions in the United States, change can be made by health care systems that establish health care practices so traditional health care practices are able to become more flexible and accommodate to more people’s needs and beliefs. Doctors should have access to all religions and the issues that could arise in the medical field. When Muslim women go to the hospital, they should be able to see a female doctor. If they cannot see a female doctor, their husband should be allowed to be in the room. Having a woman’s spouse in the room is not allowed in the United States because of the increase in domestic violence, therefore when a patient over the age of 18 is conscious when they arrive to the hospital, they are asked to speak to the doctor alone. If their husband or another male family member is not present, all and any accommodations that can be made in order to ensure the patients’ needs and beliefs are being met.
The United States has a traditional health care system and there is increasing awareness being brought to the public’s eyes regarding these traditional health care systems not always accommodate people’s needs and beliefs. The irony in having an inflexible healthcare system is that the United States was built upon a diverse group of people from numerous religions and cultures. Because the United States is home to an extremely diverse population, doctors should be aware of all cultures and their followers’ needs and beliefs in order to ensure the best health care is provided at all time. Doctor’s jobs aren’t easy, and ensuring they are abiding to moral relativism makes it even harder. But they are doctors because they chose to help people with their career. When helping people they need to understand there will be times when people’s needs lead their job to become complicated. Awareness of other religions is something that I find to be very important as I aspire to be a pharmacist. In order to help doctors provide the best care possible while respecting peoples’ needs is something I need to be aware of.
“All Religions and Denominations in the US – Under God in the Pledge” ProCon.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
International Strategy and Policy Institute (ISPI). Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Medscape Log In. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Rabin, Roni Caryn. “Respecting Muslim Patients’ Needs.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Oct. 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Nordberg, Jenny. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. Broadway, 2015.