Muslim Patients and Cross-Gender Interactions in Medicine

Muslims may seek health care differently than other patients based on religious concerns about cross-gender interaction with providers.

The authors explored the impact of Islam on Muslim patients, and recommend addressing Muslim patients’ potential concerns about seeking and receiving health care by improving providers’ cultural competence and patient-provider communication.

The Islamic ethic on gender relations requires modesty, and includes a dress code that stipulates what areas of the body must remain covered for men and women. The ethic of seclusion prohibits an unrelated man and woman from being alone together; nor are unrelated men and women permitted to touch each other. All of these religious requirements may affect how Muslim patients approach being examined, being alone with a physician of the opposite sex or changing their clothes.

The authors recommend addressing all potential issues with improved patient-provider communication, including a suggestion of intake questionnaires where new patients can articulate their values and share their concerns. More specifically, the authors recommend using examination gowns that cover more of the patients’ bodies or offering patients the option of remaining in their clothes, and suggest having a same-gender chaperone either in the room with or within hearing distance of the patient.