At Peace

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Additional tasks of muslim doctors

Being a doctor is not just about treating patient physically. Physical component is only one part of oneself. With the involvement of social worker, dietitian, physiotherapy and OT, the care of the patient is becoming more hollistic. We learn in our basic history taking that we should include social history including the smoking/alcohol and ome circumstances, so we should at least be able to offer advice of social aspect of the problem.

I wonder sometimes, if we are allowed to ask patients on their sexual orientation, alcohol consumption and even their drug history, why can't we ask whether they would have difficulty praying five time a day, or discuss with the patient about fasting while they are sick if it is in Ramadhan? It might be that those 'usual' questions' are directly related to certain diseases (HIV, hepatitis, infective endocarditis), and solat is not. But what about whether they have 2 storey house or not, or whether who prepare their food at home? That is certainly not directly related to the current medical condition. We ask those questions to have an idea of how safe can we discharge the patient home after treating them. If we are allowed to interfere with their safety after discharges, we surely are allowed to make sure of their (muslims) safety after their death! That fits in with the idea of having muslim chaplain in hospitals. If we find that the patient might have 'spiritual' problem, then we mayn call the chaplain to help.

Of course i am talking about malaysia, not while i am in ireland. They are many atheist or agnostic that might be offended by questions on religion.

Islamic Perspective in Medicine

I bought an interesting book compiled by Dr Shahid Athar, an Endocrinologist in Indiana, USA. He compiled a number of articles presented in Islamic medical conference over th years. One article discussed about the additional responsibilities of muslim doctors, compare to their non-muslim counterpart.

1. The Public Responsibility

It is not right for muslim doctors only to be in their circle of hospital walls, patients and collleague. They should also be active in the community, showing good examples to the rest of community and using their expertise to help others in non-medical way. Doctors generally are viewed with respect and has great weight and influence over the community, hence he should use this for the greater good.

2. Faith & Healing

By accepting the fact that Allah is the healer and that doctor is only an agent, both patients and doctors fight their battle of treatment with less agony and tension. The ability of a doctor to make good decision ultimately reflects the mercy of the Creator. This is not to say that doctors can quickly blame God for mistakes that they make, but everybody will come to term with what happen more easily by accepting there are power beyond our ability, who has full knowledge and ultimate wisdom of what is happening.

3. Reprehensible, Prohibited and Permissible act

As muslims, we are bound not only of the law of the land, but also the shariah's law. Most of the times, these law would compliment each other - that it is doctor's responsibilities to treat patient to the best of their ability etc. However, at times, we are confronted by situations whereby the law of the land/medical ethics might permit such actions, but not from shariah view point. For example, mercy killing when there might still hope, or transsexual operation, certain cosmetic surgeries and of course abortion. We muslims are bound by shariah's law, and we should stick to it to the best of our ability.

Talking about abortion, the book mentioned some statistics. We know that with medical advances, the infant mortality rate is decreasing. For example, infant mortality in US in 1970 was 43,205. This has decrease to 22,010 in 1978. See, we are making progress - or so we might think. The statistic 'forgot' to include some 1,150,776 infant mortality for the first 9 months of their life in 1978, which was considered as abortion as compared to infant mortality. This is 600% increase from 1970 figure of 193,491. How about the increasing rate of suicide in Ireland? There must something that we are missing in the medical communities that we cannot improve personal happiness and wellbeing, which should be the goal.

Modern medicine recognizes electrical brain activity as a sign of life and would not dispose of any person as long as this is present. However, it is willing to dispose a huge numbers of unborn babies even though they have electrical brain activity.



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