Sunday 3 February 2008
Women training in several hospitals in England have raised objections to removing their arm coverings in theatre and to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands, because it is regarded as immodest in Islam. Universities and NHS trusts fear many more will refuse to co-operate with new Department of Health guidance, introduced this month, which stipulates that all doctors must be “bare below the elbow”.
The measure is deemed necessary to stop the spread of infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile, which have killed hundreds.
Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, and warn that it could leave trusts open to legal action.
Dr Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London, said: «To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C.difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist. I don’t think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of bare below the elbows has to be applied universally.»
But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam. «No practising Muslim woman — doctor, medical student, nurse or patient — should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow», it said.
Dr Majid Katme, the association spokesman, said: «Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence (sic) to suggest skin is safer to the patient if covered. One idea might be to produce long, sterile, disposable gloves which go up to the elbows.» !!