Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Muslims: Physical Examinations

It is haram (forbidden) under Islamic law for a man to expose himself to any woman other than his wife; similarly, it is forbidden for a woman to expose herself to a man who is not her husband. For this reason, a full physical examination generally must be carried out by a member of the healthcare team who is of the same gender as the patient.

In some cases – such as when examining young unmarried girls – it may also be advisable to have a female chaperone present to reassure the patient and her family. The chaperone could be a member of the family or local community, if this allows the patient to feel more at ease. Married women may wish their husbands to be present.

When making such an examination, it is important to be sensitive about the privacy of the patient and preserve their modesty as far as possible. For example, although back-opening hospital gowns may need to be worn for tests or to make examinations more convenient, patients should be allowed to wear a dressing gown over the top whenever possible. Muslim patients should also be examined in an area where the sudden intrusion of other people is not possible. Groups of students – especially of mixed genders – should not be invited to observe the examination of a Muslim patient.

For a Muslim healthcare worker making intimate examinations, disposable gloves must be provided and worn wherever possible. If flesh-to-flesh contact is made around the genitals, for example, then additional ablutions must be made before the next prayer of the day, to remove the 'unclean contamination' caused by such contact

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