For Muslims, talking to an Islamic spiritual care provider about God, the afterlife and prayers may be helpful at the dying stage. But for hospitalized patients this is not always easy. “Most hospitals have chaplains and they are available around the clock. But, chaplains are predominantly trained in the Christian paradigm,” says Alibhai. “Very few hospitals have Muslim chaplains. For instance, my hospital does not, and my hospital is one of the biggest in the city and one of the biggest in the country”.
Modesty is important for Muslims but when a patient is cared for in a hospital and clothed in a relatively immodest hospital gown, this cannot always be fully respected. “And for male patients particularly if they need hygiene assistants, so bathing and shaving and those kinds of things, then many observant Muslim men are more comfortable obviously with a male nurse. And there’s a scarcity of male nurses,” says Alibhai.
“Islam prohibits discontinuing of nourishment and hydration; if the patient is able to swallow, small sips of water can be given. If he/she is unconscious and does not respond a moistened cotton swab can be used,” state Khlood Salman and Rick Zoucha in an article on terminally ill Muslim patients published last year in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. The authors add, however, that “prolonging life on machines is not encouraged”.
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