Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Special Hospital Bed Service for Brit Muslims

First the burqa, now the bed: what's next?!

Last year, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) decided that British hospitals had to give Muslim patients Burqa-style gowns, if the patients didn't want medical staff to see their faces.

This year, the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust is seeing how much more British hospital staffs can take. The executive-types have decided that the beds of Muslim patients have to be turned to face Mecca.

Five times a day.

That's just the start of the fun. Fresh bathing water is part of a complicated process that the Muslims apparently require. The idea is to give Muslim patients "a more comfortable stay in hospital." In a spasm of common sense, the directive says that medical personnel should stop dealing with illness and human suffering to play musical beds "whenever possible."
I understand how important it is to accommodate the beliefs and customs of patients. I'm Catholic, and have spent my share of time in hospitals: including quite a bit of 2006. I found comfort in objects and sacraments related to my faith. The room I was in had a crucifix over the door, and the hospital let someone come regularly with a consecrated Host. During visiting hours, of course. It was a Catholic hospital, which explains the crucifix.

There's a lot more to being a Catholic than that, and rules that apply when I'm not plugged into several machines. However, the Church recognizes that sometimes it's not practical - or possible - to practice every pious custom. I can be Catholic without insisting that a hospital pick up
  • Me
  • A wheelchair
  • An IV feed
  • A blood recycler
- and carry the whole kit and kaboodle to Mass once a week.

Once a day, if I got really scrupulous.
Back to the special requirements of British Muslims, as imagined by the National Health Service.

Religious practices are important to many people, and should be accommodated, withing reason. "Within reason" is a critical phrase here. The news articles covering this alleged need of Muslim patients didn't say what the patient-staff ratio is in British hospitals, but my guess is that it isn't even close to 1-to-1.

Hospital beds, the ones I'm familiar with, are big, bulky, and heavy. One person can turn them, but it takes two to do the job in a reasonable time.

I think that, in the long run, it would be easier to
  • Jack up those British hospitals
  • Slip turntables under them
  • Align the beds of devout Muslims so that they all point in one direction throughout the hospital
  • Turn the whole building as Islam dictates
My guess is that, even if the NHS did this, it still wouldn't be good enough.

At least, not for permanently-affronted minority rights outfits.

If Muslims have such remarkably labor-intensive needs when they're hospitalized, maybe Britain needs to build special hospitals, specifically designed for their needs. But that would be segregation, and that's on the civil rights' black list, too. Or, rather, the 'unacceptable' list.

Some Islamic nations, organizations, and individuals have a well-established track record of being easily offended by everything from cartoons to trousers and teddy bears.

But, the Incredible Case of the Rotating Beds doesn't seem to have its roots among British Muslims, at least not directly. the Daily Express reports that "The changes have been instigated by Dewsbury and District Hospital’s chief matron, Catherine Briggs...." Ms. Briggs had talked with quite a few people and groups to find to find out "what staff could do to further improve Muslim patients' experience of the NHS." These included
  • Local Asian GPs
  • Ethnic minority patients groups
  • Muslim chaplain Ilyas Dalal
Consulting people to find out what's wanted: that's a good idea. Taking what I suspect is an ideal of Islamic behavior under perfect conditions, and dictating that real people in a real hospital try carrying it out is an idea that comes from Ms. Briggs. Someone who probably isn't a Muslim.

Tolerance and accommodation of different religious beliefs and practices is important. But, I don't think that the Briggs Whirlybed Project is going to improve the status of Islam and Muslims in Britain.


Brigid said...


I gotta ask. Why don't they just turn the beds when a Muslim patient is admitted and leave it there for the duration? That seems to be a bit easier on the staff then turning the beds toward Mecca and back again five times a day.

Brian H. Gill said...

I had the same thought.

Look at the distinctly non-"Islamic"-sounding name of the executive who dreamed up this order. My guess is that there's more PC than Islam in this notion.

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