Palliative care for Muslim patients

Categories: Education.

In an article published in The Journal of Supportive Oncology, doctors, Mohammad Zafir al-Shahri, and Abdullah al-Khenaizan, write about how health care professionals can be considerate to the specific requirements of Muslim patients and families in their care.

The authors argue that: “delivery of quality healthcare to Muslim patients calls for promoting health professionals’ awareness of the religion of Islam.”

This comprehensive article should be required reading for anyone caring for a Muslim patient at any point during their palliative care journey. With an estimated 1.3 to 1.7 billion people worldwide following the Islamic faith, it should be required reading for anyone practicing palliative care.

In the article, the authors consider aspects such as:

  • the meaning of suffering
  • medical ethics
  • modesty
  • cleanliness
  • prayer
  • truth-telling
  • the use of opioids and sedatives; and
  • religious practices around death.

They consider the particular requirements of Islam with regard to each of these aspects of healthcare and offer advice on how healthcare providers can be sensitive to these needs.

For instance, in reference to the use of opioids and sedatives, the authors note that: “In the Islamic perspective, medication-related sedation could be looked at from two different angles. On the one hand, alleviation of the suffering of a human being is considered very righteous. On the other hand, maintaining a level of consciousness as close to normal as possible is of great importance to allow for observance of the worship rites for the longest period possible before death.”

They advise that those caring for Muslim patients make themselves aware of observances required by the person’s religion which may impact on the way that they would prefer to receive care. They also note certain instances in which a compromise may be needed. One example of this is the requirement of fasting during Ramadan. The authors suggest a conversation with the person to modify medication schedules to allow for fasting during daylight hours.

The article concludes: “Terminally ill patients constitute a vulnerable group that deserves specialized and sensitive care that addresses their physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs,” noting that a greater awareness by healthcare professionals of their patients’ faith will lead to more sensitive, and better, holistic palliative care.

Eid Mubarak to all out Muslim readers!

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