I mentioned previously a clash between religion and public health, where a Liberian immigrant was jailed for importing bushmeat. She argued that infringing upon her religious freedom in this manner was unconstitutional; authorities argued that she couldn’t put others at risk because of her religious beliefs. Another clash where religious beliefs are at odds with public health is simmering in the U.K.; more after the jump.
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.
Reactions from other doctors and infectious disease specialists quoted in the story are harsh–justifiably, in my opinion–and they note that some trainees have indeed quit the program rather than expose their arms.
A possible compromise?
Dr Majid Katme, the association spokesman, said: “Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence 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.”