Muslims are required to seek medical help for illness as part of their duty to Allah. Looking after their health is a Muslim's way of showing respect and gratitude for the body that has been gifted to them.
In addition, Muslims see it as their duty to try to preserve life for as long as possible: it is up to Allah to decide when life will slip away, and so all attempts must be made to keep someone alive until then. For this reason, the family of a Muslim patient may become upset if non-resuscitation policies are discussed.
However, some Muslims – especially the older generation – may not be willing to take medication such as pain relief because of their belief that all suffering is part of Allah's will and so should be endured rather than alleviated. If the medication is a vital part of their recovery, there will be fewer objections. Delicate discussion with your patient may be necessary – but remember to listen to them and accept that they may continue to refuse pain relief.
More problems may arise if the medication is considered to be intoxicating or narcotic. All alcohols and narcotics are haram (banned in the Qur'an). Check to see what the ingredients of any medication are before prescribing it.
Obviously, any medication that contains pork products or blood is also not acceptable. Muslims may have blood transfusions, but may not ingest blood products. Check the ingredients of the medication before use.
If a patient is not exempt from fasting during Ramadan, then this may present a problem if regular medication needs to be taken. Technically, fasting means that nothing may be taken into the body by any open orifice – this includes nasal sprays, tablets, liquid medication and permanent intravenous lines. It is not obligatory for an ill Muslim to refuse medication, but they may wish to discuss rescheduling their intake so that all medication is taken after sunset.
Alternatives include using skin patches where applicable (it is allowable to absorb medication through the skin as this is not a permanently open route) or higher dosage pills and tablets, so that fewer are needed throughout the day. Islamic law does provide for this eventuality; forbidden things become allowable if there is no other choice (for example, it is permissible to eat pork if you are starving and there is no other food). Discuss this issue with your patients to ensure that they are happy and their wishes are respected.
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