What an eye opener in The Sunday Times today.
The story is that Muslim medical students are refusing to attend lectures or answer examination questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases because they claim it offends their religious beliefs. What’s more some of them have refused to treat patients of the opposite sex and have been prepared to fail their final exams rather than carry out a basic non-intrusive examination of a female patient.
Can this be true? you ask. Yes, the story is backed up by the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council, who should know. (Incidentally, they both stress they do not approve of such actions – I should think so too.)
Just to be fair, (and I don’t often say that), we are told that many Islamic scholars see all this as a step too far, and actually say these Muslim students are reneging on their professional responsibilities.
And to his credit, the BMC’s spokesman said that “prejudicing treatment on the grounds of patients’ gender or their responsibility for their condition would run counter to the most basic principles of ethical medical practice.”
Now I have no problem with these Muslim medical students feeling as they do – that’s their privilege. But I do have a problem with their expecting to qualify and practice as doctors in this country, and with the fact that they are accepting their training from us.
If they were allowed to get away with this, women and girls could be denied treatment in a male GP’s surgery; likewise females could arrive in a hospital’s accident and emergency department only to find a male doctor would not treat them – and delays cost lives. A young girl who had inadvisedly had unprotected sex could find herself denied the morning after pill. A person of either gender who had, through no fault of their own, contracted a sexually-transmitted disease could be left to suffer, as could someone whose hard drinking looked like leading to liver disease.
This story comes hard on the heels of others about Muslim Sainsbury checkout operators being allowed to refuse to handle alcohol purchases on religious grounds, and to refuse to sell the morning after pill to customers. Boots staff are also permitted to refuse to sell the pill on ethical grounds.
All of these things are legal in our country. All of these concessions mean more work for some other member of staff. Do we really want to turn Britain into a quasi-muslim fundamentalist country? If non-muslims refused to sell/treat muslims there would pretty quickly be a referral to whatever the racial equality body happened to be called at the time.
There’s a very simple way out for the medical students and the checkout operators – get a different job.