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

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.

March:31:2010 - 08:58 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
3 Responses to “Men, Women & the Examining Room”
  1. 1
    Susanne Said:
    March:31:2010 - 11:02 

    “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?”


  2. 2
    oby Said:
    March:31:2010 - 15:07 

    What is wrong with a female nurse in the room with patient and doctor? The patient maintains confidentiality and the nurse is there to make sure nothing goes on and can be the man’s (husband’s) eyes and ears.

  3. 3
    Chiara Said:
    March:31:2010 - 19:01 

    Protecting the doctors (and dentists) from false allegations is the main reason the malpractice insurance companies, physicians groups, and practice guidelines recommend that a nurse be present especially for full physicals or pelvic exams of a female patient by a male doctor.

    However, this is not the only combination where there can be impropriety or a false allegation of the same. A female friend refuses to do a rectal on a male patient without a nurse in the room for the same reason. Nor are false allegations of impropriety by same gendered patients precluded. One woman I interned with was accused by a lesbian psych patient of having a “special relationship” with her. One female colleague had a formal complaint made to the licensing body by female patient (egged on by the clinic social worker) for being sexually inappropriate while examining her ear. This is taken extremely seriously and most physicians who actually lose their license do so for proben sexual impropriety.

    On the other hand, one male patient of mine was distraught at the ending of his relationship with a male doctor. The relationship started when he was an inpatient on a medical ward, and he and the then intern had a sexual affair in the hospital. As there were no mandatory reporting laws where this happened I wasn’t obliged to report the physician in question, just treat the brokenhearted.

    I do think that for the comfort of both patient and doctor a nurse should be present. A nurse is bound by professional confidentiality. In most cases a male relative also being present wouldn’t be a problem. The time it is the greatest problem is when there is domestic abuse of whatever form. In that case it is imperative to interview the woman without a family member present and to guarantee that no further harm will come to her (or him) from exposing the revelation of abuse (or diagnosis of it) to the family, without adequate protection being in place.

    The biggest objection to having a nurse always present is staffing and cost.

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