Elsevier, the publisher of scholarly and medical journals, has produced an app for the iPhone and iPad called “Care of Muslim Patients – A Practical Guide.” It’s a reference guide to help doctors accommodate Islamic beliefs and cultural practices, such as advising patients who are fasting during Ramadan. Aasim Padela, MD, who is Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago, reviewed the app in a recent issue of the Lancet. He said that while it provides a useful, portable guide to treating Muslim patients, it also highlights the grey areas where medicine, religion and ethics overlap:
The mere fact that the app instructs clinicians to offer “religious” advice raises a larger question: what is the role of physicians, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, in counselling patients on matters of religion? It is one thing to provide physicians with information that helps them to understand the needs and customs of Muslim patients, it is another matter entirely to advise patients on the appropriate course of action from a religious perspective. While some sections recommend non-Muslim physicians refer their patients to Muslim physicians for bioethical advice, this suggestion assumes Muslim physicians are themselves informed of Islamic ethico-legal verdicts, and conflates medical expertise with religious authority.
Padela is also a faculty member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, and recently won the 2012 Ibn Sina Award from the Compassionate Care Network of Chicago for his outstanding work and contributions in the field of Islamic medical ethics. The intersection between medicine faith is rich with scholarship and thoughtful debate in a variety of forums, and like seemingly every field of study these days, it’s no surprise that it’s also found its way to the iPhone.