Saudi Arabia has been trying, for years, to come to terms with the fact that in medical situations, you often have a conflict of social values. There are not equal numbers of male and female doctors, nor does a doctor have total control over the gender of which patients will become ill on a given day. (Obviously, OB/GYN specialization is different.)
This is a big deal for the Saudis, though, as they have strong cultural and religious taboos about unrelated men and women being in the same room at the same time. Arab News reports that the Ministry of Health has set out a directive to address the issue definitively. Male doctors cannot be alone in the same room as a female patient. Also, a male relative has the right to be in the room, if he so demands.
That should take care of the problem. And it’s not all bad for male doctors (or medicine as a whole), as it works to prevent false allegations against doctors and medical facilities.
As a commenter notes at the Arab News site, however, it does rather destroy the notion of ‘patient confidentiality’. Does a female patient have to have a male relative privy to her medical condition? Sometimes, health issues are embarrassing and very intimately private. Should an uncle, brother, or husband (we won’t even get into ‘son’ as a male relative category!) know every last detail of a woman’s health? Shouldn’t that decision be up to the patient to make?
Doctors can’t be alone with women patients
LAURA BASHRAHEEL ARAB NEWS
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health has released a circular banning doctors from being alone with their female patients.
The circular, which has been sent to health institutes across the Kingdom, also says that doctors and nurses should not be alone, and that male relatives are permitted to accompany their womenfolk during visits.
It also calls on doctors and hospital staff to avoid suspicious situations and to ensure women patients have someone with them in their rooms other than the doctor.