Accommodation by another name

The item I wrote the other day involving Muslim taxi drivers and assistance dogs interested me greatly because there are two sides to the story. In my opinion, the drivers’ rights fall short of the rights of the passengers, but the arguments come closer to carrying the same weight than in many other disagreements.

Do you want an example of a less balanced dispute? The Telegraph provides it:

Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules brought in to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, because they say it is against their religion.

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”.

There is no wiggle-room here. We know infection is dangerous and extreme cleanliness saves lives. Letting this go for religious reasons will kill people who do not share the same religious beliefs. I’m all for accommodation, but there’s a line. This is over the line. Far over the line.

Dr Majid Katme, spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, 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.

Are you kidding me? Exposed anything can pick up germs. The issue is the germs you bring with you, not those you pick up in the operating theatre. If you roll up your sleeves and wash almost to your elbow before putting on sterile gloves, you’re as clean and germ free as possible should a glove fail or be cut. Washing to your wrist is far less clean if a glove fails, even the sterile glove goes up to your shoulder.

The article also says, “Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms.” Rather than a problem, i think this is the ideal solution.

As I said, I’m all for accommodation, but it must not subvert the goal itself. Relaxing sanitary standards for surgeries is not negotiable. For goodness sakes, we don’t see the blind claiming discrimination because they can’t be surgeons. If you can’t properly do the job, whether because of a disability or a contrary belief, find something else to do.

Should such a ridiculous dispensation on religious grounds be allowed, I’d like to see this information made available to patients. If a patient will be exposed to more risk because of their doctor’s religious beliefs, the patient should be informed and have the opportunity to get another surgeon. Doesn’t the patient have the right to the best possible care?

That said, no such dispensation should even be considered. This isn’t accommodation, it’s surrender to political correctness and the wholesale disregard of repeatedly proven fact. Will we next see the Hippocratic Oath rewritten with a religious exemption?

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