TruckGirl

Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2005
38
0
Status
Resident [Any Field]
What would you think of a medical student who refuses to shake hands with members of the opposite sex, such as professors or doctors, for religious or cultural reasons?

Since they're going to be examining patients anyway and touching them, do you think they still have the right to refuse handshakes? Would that affect their grading?
 

monstermatch

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2004
142
0
Status
I think thats a good sign that they're in the wrong field. Medicine is all about intimate human contact - anyhow, if they can't shake a patient's hand, can they give him a rectal exam?
 

ishaninatte

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 25, 2004
172
0
Status
Everyone looks a bit scandalized when I try to shake their hand in Japan, so I stopped. But by choosing to enter an American medical school, I think you should have to put the responsibilty of learning all the various cultural nuances on yourself. For example, I bow all the time here, and feel like an idiot each time, but continue to keep it up anyways. They all like to see I'm trying.

For religious reasons? That's kind of lame. Like someone alluded to earlier, are they going to refuse to do an exam for religious reasons too?
 
OP
T

TruckGirl

Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2005
38
0
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I didn't say it's shaking the patient's hand. It's shaking the doctor or professor's hand out in the corridors or wherever, LOL.
 

45408

aw buddy
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jun 14, 2004
16,976
47
Status
Resident [Any Field]
so you can shake a patient's hand but not a professor's hand?

I would endorse the "When in Rome......" thought process. You may come off as being rude or overly sensitive if you refuse to shake someone's hand.
 

monstermatch

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2004
142
0
Status
TruckGirl said:
I didn't say it's shaking the patient's hand. It's shaking the doctor or professor's hand out in the corridors or wherever, LOL.
LoL, my misunderstanding. There are a few earthy docs out there who may be put off, but otherwise I wouldn't worry about it.
 

Bo Hurley

Membership Revoked
Removed
10+ Year Member
Dec 2, 2004
325
0
Status
vikaskoth said:
what religion has this silly rule?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's frowned upon for a man to shake a woman's hand in Saudi Arabia or another mid-east nation.

But hey it's not just a religious thing. I've heard Donald Trump hates shaking anybody's hand---male or female. And I gotta admit I hate shaking hands too. Not only for hygenic reasons but what's the point anyway? I especially hate it when I've washed my hands and am about to eat and somebody comes along that you haven't seen for a while and puts out his/her hand for a handshake.
 

ericdamiansean

High Profiler
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jun 26, 2003
1,191
3
37
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I've heard that some medical schools in the MIddle East have separate sections which are walled within the same lecture hall, males and females are separate.
 

Seashelley

Junior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Jan 25, 2005
10
0
Boston
Status
In a religion like Islam, the type of Islam I grew up with, it's perfectly ok to have contact a patient of the opposite sex in the context of the profession. As long as the doctor is strictly doing his/her job, it's fine. But other than that, outside this professional setting, physical contact of a person of the opposite sex with whom you are not related or married is unnecessary and a big no-no. So, no shaking hands.

But often muslim patients will shake hands with a non-arab doctor of the opposite sex because they don't want to offend, it's a cross-cultural thing where different rules apply, and people understand that the potential sexual undertone for physical contact that exists in the arab culture doesn't exist for many other cultures.
 

stinkycheese

Stinky and Cheesy
10+ Year Member
Jun 12, 2004
1,247
4
Status
Some extremely religious Jewish people (like Hassids or Lubavitch) don't shake the hand of the opposite sex because they're supposed to only touch their spouse. It's a dumb rule in my opinion, but I think a medical student should be allowed to obey their religion if they so choose, and this shouldn't be an issue, as long as they don't scrimp on patient duties.
 

docbill

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Aug 20, 2004
2,419
1
Status
Medical Student
People who are against this, might want to think of this as training Physicians for minorities!

There is nothing wrong with this person refusing to shake hands. I don't personally agree with it. But she may be going into Pediatrics or OBGYN where she will deal with women and specifically going to serve her community, with similar believes. She will be doing her duty as a Physician by treating these people.

BTW... this is also practiced in Japan and maybe other places (as someone noted above).

BTW2. What is wrong with segregating men and women in class. We all know that we are a bunch of hormonal/sexually tempted young people. Men and women will be able to concentrate better. There are studies demonstrating this. do google search.. you will find.
 

stinkycheese

Stinky and Cheesy
10+ Year Member
Jun 12, 2004
1,247
4
Status
surrender903 said:
if the guy is that devout to his religion he should be in the clergy and not in the examining room
Why is that? Is being religious incompatible with secular life? Your statement implies that religion doesn't have a place in the secular world, which is true in some ways, but so false in others. Religion shouldn't be a factor in the government of our nation, and it shouldn't be fuel for wars and hatred, but the tolerance of others' religions is a vital and necessary part of living in a free society. If someone chooses to practice his religion in the way that Hasidic Jews choose to practice, that doesn't mean that they should be treated like societal pariahs who are unwelcome in the medical field. To think that way is to promote prejudice and segregation.
 

Febrifuge

Grizzled Old Newcomer
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
May 7, 2003
1,520
22
febrifuge.blogspot.com
Status
Non-Student
Some of you guys. Honestly.

As an Agnostic, I could say that all religions are full of "dumb rules," but that doesn't make them any less important to the people who hold the beliefs. And it doesn't make those beliefs - or those people - any less worthy of respect. Medicine is not all about what's comfortable or logical to the people who practice it.

I've been asked to step out and find a female tech to do a 12-lead EKG on a female Muslim patient. Intellectually, yeah, I think it's dumb to consider all physical contact to necessarily have a sexual component. But I don't take it personally, and I don't imagine that my opinion matters more than the patient's just because I work there.

Same goes for a staff or faculty member, or even a student rotating through the department. TruckGirl, to answer your question, I'd think this student was observant of the customs of their religion, and that's all I'd think. If it had a negative effect on their grading, they might very well have a good case for lodging a complaint against the school. It's against the law to treat a student differently because of their religion, and whether a student shakes hands with staff has diddly to do with their ability to do the doctoring thing. So I'm with StinkyCheese and Seashelley on this.
 

MeowMix

Explaining "Post-Call"
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jan 6, 2003
1,639
12
Visit site
Status
Attending Physician
I met a Muslim student last year (he's an MSII) who will not shake hands or make eye contact with women he meets in a social context, for religious reasons. Fine by me. I am sure he has figured out how to handle his responsibilities as a medical professional; in many cases, I have been told, the standard rules are waived when it comes to medical care if there is no other option or it is a matter of life and death (for example, in the ER, the hijab is removed, a male doctor examines a female patient, etc.).

He is an excellent student, a great teacher, and I'm sure he will be a good doctor.

The point is that many cultures have cultural or religious prohibitions on certain behaviors that we consider normal. Treating patients effectively often requires that we learn and respect those guidelines.
 

carrigallen

16th centry dutch painter
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Feb 27, 2003
1,542
7
Visit site
Status
I think that the key issue is the social vs. professional context. If an individual's religious preferences interfere with their professional obligations, then they are unfit for the profession. An individual who refuses to make eye contact with patients and collegues is unfit to work as a physician.

Part of our professional obligations are to behave in a socially acceptable manner. I think that a school may be justified in failing a student for this, depending on the context.
 

quideam

Too tired to complain
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Apr 17, 2003
1,397
8
37
NYC
Visit site
Status
Resident [Any Field]
In Judaism, a person can be "shomer nagia", which means that they do not touch members of the opposite sex, and will only touch their spouse. However, if you are a physician and need to examine a patient of the opposite sex, this is waived. So, no problems. Why all the complaining?
 

Febrifuge

Grizzled Old Newcomer
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
May 7, 2003
1,520
22
febrifuge.blogspot.com
Status
Non-Student
carrigallen said:
I think that the key issue is the social vs. professional context. If an individual's religious preferences interfere with their professional obligations, then they are unfit for the profession. An individual who refuses to make eye contact with patients and collegues is unfit to work as a physician.

Part of our professional obligations are to behave in a socially acceptable manner. I think that a school may be justified in failing a student for this, depending on the context.
Switching Devil's Advocate to... ON.

What about an observant Jewish doctor who is part of a practice or hospital team that works 24/7, but who will him/herself not work on the Sabbath? What if he or she makes arrangements for a colleague to take over on those days, and no patients are left without care -- they just can't get that particular doctor to respond to a page, come to the ER, take call, or write a prescription.

Is that doctor "unfit" to practice?
 

Fantasy Sports

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2004
414
0
Status
Febrifuge said:
Switching Devil's Advocate to... ON.

What about an observant Jewish doctor who is part of a practice or hospital team that works 24/7, but who will him/herself not work on the Sabbath? What if he or she makes arrangements for a colleague to take over on those days, and no patients are left without care -- they just can't get that particular doctor to respond to a page, come to the ER, take call, or write a prescription.

Is that doctor "unfit" to practice?
Is s/he working overtime on other days to make up for that?

Otherwise, Im part of a religion that only allows me to work 10am-3pm M-F, no call.
 

stinkycheese

Stinky and Cheesy
10+ Year Member
Jun 12, 2004
1,247
4
Status
Fantasy Sports said:
Is s/he working overtime on other days to make up for that?

Otherwise, Im part of a religion that only allows me to work 10am-3pm M-F, no call.
Funny, but disrespectful. The Jewish Sabbath is a widely observed tradition in Jewish culture. It is not some made-up rule to help Jewish people get out of working on Saturdays. I am sure that any Jewish physician who doesn't take call on Saturdays still works their fair share. Most Jews that I know who are doctors DO work on Saturdays because their work is considered "vital to the maintenance of life", which takes precedence over the day of rest.
 

Fantasy Sports

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2004
414
0
Status
stinkycheese said:
Funny, but disrespectful. The Jewish Sabbath is a widely observed tradition in Jewish culture. It is not some made-up rule to help Jewish people get out of working on Saturdays. I am sure that any Jewish physician who doesn't take call on Saturdays still works their fair share. Most Jews that I know who are doctors DO work on Saturdays because their work is considered "vital to the maintenance of life", which takes precedence over the day of rest.
Yeah, I know, Im Jewish...

Im actually interested in the answer, because most Jewish people I know do work on the Sabbath, etc. So I would imagine that those who do not work on the Sabbath make up that time elsewhere.
 

Elysium

Not Really An Old Beaver
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Dec 5, 2001
2,014
5
46
Austin
Visit site
Status
Non-Student
One of my good friends in med school is an orthodox jew that cannot touch members of the opposite sex (he's 30, unmarried, and has never hugged a girl). However, he does shake hands with women and he is allowed to practice OMM (part of our DO education that requires touching members of both sexes). When he's doing rotations, he is not allowed to work on the Sabbath, but when he's a resident it's acceptable since it's vital to the maintenance of life. We also have several female Muslim students at our school (which is funny, since I go to a jewish med school) that are very uncomfortable with doing OMM with people of the opposite sex, but they do it anyway. They are not supposed to be touched by members of the opposite sex, but they have to deal. Sometimes it's hard to rectify religious customs with medicine, but it seems that it can be done.
 

pillowhead

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Oct 25, 2002
1,029
3
Visit site
Status
Fantasy Sports said:
Yeah, I know, Im Jewish...

Im actually interested in the answer, because most Jewish people I know do work on the Sabbath, etc. So I would imagine that those who do not work on the Sabbath make up that time elsewhere.
there was a thread about this in the general residency forum. it got pretty nasty. do a search for sabbath friendly residencies or something like that.
 

ms. a

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 21, 2003
449
2
Houston
Visit site
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Elysium said:
One of my good friends in med school is an orthodox jew that cannot touch members of the opposite sex (he's 30, unmarried, and has never hugged a girl). However, he does shake hands with women and he is allowed to practice OMM (part of our DO education that requires touching members of both sexes). When he's doing rotations, he is not allowed to work on the Sabbath, but when he's a resident it's acceptable since it's vital to the maintenance of life. We also have several female Muslim students at our school (which is funny, since I go to a jewish med school) that are very uncomfortable with doing OMM with people of the opposite sex, but they do it anyway. They are not supposed to be touched by members of the opposite sex, but they have to deal. Sometimes it's hard to rectify religious customs with medicine, but it seems that it can be done.
I'm just really curious about this. So the first day that they ever touch their spouse is actually the day they are married? And what about their children? Is a father allowed to touch his daughter, and vice versa?

Just very curious.
 

toofache32

15+ Year Member
Apr 19, 2003
3,873
36
Status
Resident [Any Field]
TruckGirl said:
What would you think of a medical student who refuses to shake hands...
Then what else are they supposed to shake instead? :eek:
 

jennie 21

Senior Member
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jan 8, 2003
434
0
Princeton
Visit site
Status
ms. a said:
I'm just really curious about this. So the first day that they ever touch their spouse is actually the day they are married? And what about their children? Is a father allowed to touch his daughter, and vice versa?

Just very curious.
Yes, for very strict Orthodox/Hassidic Jews, the first time they touch their spouse is the day they are married. The "no touching members of the opposite sex" rule doesn't apply within the family--fathers will hug and play with their daughters, mothers will hug their sons, etc.
 

GiJoe

Senior Member
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 13, 2003
299
0
Visit site
Status
monstermatch said:
I think thats a good sign that they're in the wrong field. Medicine is all about intimate human contact - anyhow, if they can't shake a patient's hand, can they give him a rectal exam?
INTIMATE human contact? not with my patients!!
 

Kevbot

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 13, 2004
236
0
36
NJ
Status
TruckGirl said:
What would you think of a medical student who refuses to shake hands with members of the opposite sex, such as professors or doctors, for religious or cultural reasons?

Since they're going to be examining patients anyway and touching them, do you think they still have the right to refuse handshakes? Would that affect their grading?
Even though I'm Jewish myself, I never experienced this until I shadowed at Maimonodies Medical Center in Brooklyn. Since there is a large population of Jewish faculty and doctors, they make all sorts of accomodations for the Jewish religion. They have elevators that stop on every floor without having to push a button so that very religious Jews don't have to 'use electricity' on the sabbath. The cafeteria never serves dairy and meat on the same day. etc.. There is so much cultural diversity in Brooklyn (over 65 languages are spoken at that hospital) that people almost have to be aware of these kinds of things. I don't think it would be too much to ask for a proffessor to be aware of one little aspect of orthodox jewish culture.

Other interesting cultural quirks I learned about there:

- In some asian cultures, it is rude to look a person in the eye, so they tell faculty that this will make patients uncomfortable.

- If you smile at a patient of Russian decent, they may think your not taking them seriously.

There are a whole list of these, and doctors and residents are aware of all of them. Those of us planning to work in large cities, especially NY, should understand this.
 

Fantasy Sports

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 28, 2004
414
0
Status
Dumb question that was kind of already mentioned earlier.

I've actually never been to a hospital in Israel. Do they just shut down on Saturdays? Or do only the more liberal of the faith staff hospitals on Saturday?

I guess I should know this, but I've been lucky enough never to have to have gone to a hospital there.
 
OP
T

TruckGirl

Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2005
38
0
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Thanks for the informative replies. I'm a practising Muslim but not really "perfect" and there's some stuff I don't do, such as wearing a headscarf, so probably some people wouldn't know I'm one, or they'd think I'm not serious..etc.

Although I'm behind in some aspects, I have always tried to maintain this "no touching" law. In lectures or on the bus or anywhere, I try to find a seat next to a female. When I meet people I kind of stand a bit back at first and put my hands behind me and nod when greeting them so that they don't extend their hands. But sometimes it's hard to avoid, and I find it a bit awkward to reject shaking hands with a doctor, if he's going to be seeing me examining a patient anyway, and I was just wondering whether it would come off as very rude if I said "Sorry, I don't shake hands" to any of them, since they grade us on ethics and communication and stuff.

I had a friend who used to say that, but I never tried it myself.
 
OP
T

TruckGirl

Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2005
38
0
Status
Resident [Any Field]
TheProwler said:
so you can shake a patient's hand but not a professor's hand?

I would endorse the "When in Rome......" thought process. You may come off as being rude or overly sensitive if you refuse to shake someone's hand.
Interesting that you mentioned the "When in Rome.." thing. A couple of years ago an intern was giving me some advice on how to talk to patients, and he said that I've got to know all about the kinds of alcoholic drinks there are and how many units they make up..etc (since I don't drink). I said, well yeah, I know a few and it's easy to get to know the names and the concentrations, but he insisted that I can't take a proper drinking history if I haven't had any drinks myself, and he also appeared to be very angry when I said that's not possible. He kept saying "When in Rome..." and gave examples of how he doesn't smoke but he tried out the Shisha/Hookah thing while on holiday in the Middle East.. LOL. That's why I'm kinda freaked out about saying something like I refuse to do this or that because of cultural reasons. There are some weird people in staff.
 

aj725

Member
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 21, 2004
50
0
Visit site
Status
TruckGirl said:
it's easy to get to know the names and the concentrations, but he insisted that I can't take a proper drinking history if I haven't had any drinks myself, and he also appeared to be very angry when I said that's not possible.
Wow..thats downright offensive. Did he know that your religion doesn't allow drinking or did he just not care. Unfortunately non-drinkers do have to put up with these attitudes from time to time. On a different note, would he also insist that someone who was vegetarian for religious reasons must eat meat so they can fully understand what decades of living on McDs can do to people!?
 

Mephisto

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Dec 18, 2004
135
2
Status
MeowMix said:
I met a Muslim student last year (he's an MSII) who will not shake hands or make eye contact with women he meets in a social context, for religious reasons. Fine by me. I am sure he has figured out how to handle his responsibilities as a medical professional; in many cases, I have been told, the standard rules are waived when it comes to medical care if there is no other option or it is a matter of life and death (for example, in the ER, the hijab is removed, a male doctor examines a female patient, etc.).

He is an excellent student, a great teacher, and I'm sure he will be a good doctor.

The point is that many cultures have cultural or religious prohibitions on certain behaviors that we consider normal. Treating patients effectively often requires that we learn and respect those guidelines.
This is a great point. All students, especially religious, will have to find ways to balance their personal lives with their professional lives. I mean, I don't see the difference between this and a married man doing breast implants on women. He touches breasts in the office, doesn't mean he has to in public. Or a Catholic OB/GYN who oversees a few abortions every year on his ward. So it is up to the individual to decide how best to balance their religious beliefs with their career. And Muslim students find ways to adapt. No big deal.
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
Febrifuge said:
Some of you guys. Honestly.

As an Agnostic, I could say that all religions are full of "dumb rules," but that doesn't make them any less important to the people who hold the beliefs. And it doesn't make those beliefs - or those people - any less worthy of respect. Medicine is not all about what's comfortable or logical to the people who practice it.

I've been asked to step out and find a female tech to do a 12-lead EKG on a female Muslim patient. Intellectually, yeah, I think it's dumb to consider all physical contact to necessarily have a sexual component. But I don't take it personally, and I don't imagine that my opinion matters more than the patient's just because I work there.

Same goes for a staff or faculty member, or even a student rotating through the department. TruckGirl, to answer your question, I'd think this student was observant of the customs of their religion, and that's all I'd think. If it had a negative effect on their grading, they might very well have a good case for lodging a complaint against the school. It's against the law to treat a student differently because of their religion, and whether a student shakes hands with staff has diddly to do with their ability to do the doctoring thing. So I'm with StinkyCheese and Seashelley on this.
Finally I have found someone who isn't religious, but is willing to be respectful of those who are. Those of you who made fun of this individual and said they shouldn't be in medicine should take a cue from Febrifuge and realize that just because someone believes something different from you, doesn't make you an idiot.

Personally, I'm from a religion that in America is fairly mainstream and is not considered full of "silly rules." But it's not cool at all to criticize people who do have faith-based idiosyncracies, just because you subscribe to those beliefs.

To say that a person shouldn't become a doctor based on the fact that they won't shake hands is just ridiculous and who ever said that should be ashamed of themselves. Yeah, your first year they say "YOU MUST SHAKE YOUR PATIENTS' HANDS." No doubt they also tell you to knock on the door before you enter, as well...but I haven't seen my own doctor, or shadowed any other doctors that have knocked.

Bottom line: it doesn't matter.
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
TruckGirl said:
Interesting that you mentioned the "When in Rome.." thing. A couple of years ago an intern was giving me some advice on how to talk to patients, and he said that I've got to know all about the kinds of alcoholic drinks there are and how many units they make up..etc (since I don't drink). I said, well yeah, I know a few and it's easy to get to know the names and the concentrations, but he insisted that I can't take a proper drinking history if I haven't had any drinks myself, and he also appeared to be very angry when I said that's not possible. He kept saying "When in Rome..." and gave examples of how he doesn't smoke but he tried out the Shisha/Hookah thing while on holiday in the Middle East.. LOL. That's why I'm kinda freaked out about saying something like I refuse to do this or that because of cultural reasons. There are some weird people in staff.
Ask him if you can take a cardiac history without having a heart attack.
 

Elysium

Not Really An Old Beaver
7+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Dec 5, 2001
2,014
5
46
Austin
Visit site
Status
Non-Student
ms. a said:
I'm just really curious about this. So the first day that they ever touch their spouse is actually the day they are married? And what about their children? Is a father allowed to touch his daughter, and vice versa?

Just very curious.
Yes, they are NOT supposed to touch their spouse until the day they are married, and they are rules that govern the process of consummating the marriage as well. Also, orthodox men are not allowed to touch their wives when they are mensturating. They must sleep in seperate beds and the wife is supposed to pass things to another person (like the salt, during dinner) during this time. In order for orthodox men and women to date, they are usually set up via an intermediary (usually it's a blind date). Then, if things go well, they get this person to set up another date. Eventually they can communicate with each other on their own, but the woman is not supposed to call the man. Some people get engaged after a month of dating and people generally marry very young (my friend is definetly the exception). There are a lot of rules that govern the dating process (along with everything else!). Not sure about the contact with female children. I'll ask my buddy about it.

I've learned alot about Judiasm, Muslim, and Mormons since coming to med school. I only wish I knew so much about biochem!!
 

xdopaminex

xdopaminex
10+ Year Member
Feb 13, 2005
25
0
Florida
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
In Islam and Judaism (orthodox) one is only supposed to touch the opposite sex if there is a great necessity ex. someone is dying.

Where do you draw the line? Will you allow yourself to conduct testicle exams, even though it is not absolutely vital for you to do so? You *could* pass this responsibility on to another doctor....but this type of reasoning can go on and on...to the point where you'd only be treating female patients. So you could have a clinic in a predominantly Muslim area or work as a gynecologist.

I used to be (i hate using the past tense!) extremely religious, but realize now that one has to make a few accomodations and hope that God will understand that our niyyah (intentions) were pure.
 

kaos

Web Crawler
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jun 13, 2002
4,172
5
38
Limbo
Visit site
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I guess I'd be considered a lot more lax than most other Muslim women, but here goes...

Even before I got into med school, I started getting into the habit of shaking hands with men in academic/professional settings. Some of my family members and Muslim friends would wonder why I did, but it’s totally just a proper gesture, a movement of courtesy.

Now, when I go into the hospital and greet patients, I ALWAYS shake hands with them, situation of great necessity or not. I’ve been told by faculty, friends, and patients that I have an amazingly great, firm handshake (One of the best they’ve had! Not what they expect from a female! So on and so forth) and they’re usually kind of taken by a good surprise when I do it, because they usually don’t expect me to, being aware of the Muslim practice of “no contact” between men and women. In any case, the medical setting is a different story, I’m there to get the patient’s trust, and it has always worked for me. So far so good!

I personally find the whole religion excuse ridiculous. The "no contact" thing is in a situation where you find yourself with some one who is potentially "marriageable," which shouldn't bethe case in a professional setting. If I were a patient and someone didn't want to shake hands with me when I offered mine, I'd think they were callous, uncaring, and heartless and potentially have cold hands, why would I ever want them to touch me in any other way?
Just IMO.
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
Here's a question...where in Jewish law does it say that it is ok to violate the Sabbath rest if it is for the maintainence of life? I'm not arguing, I am sincerely curious.
 

oldbearprofessor

Staff member
Administrator
15+ Year Member
Mar 13, 2002
6,011
887
Status
Attending Physician
Firebird said:
Here's a question...where in Jewish law does it say that it is ok to violate the Sabbath rest if it is for the maintainence of life? I'm not arguing, I am sincerely curious.
This is a principal explained in the Talmud and expounded by many. There are others who might give you more details, but below my note is one Talmudic references and others could be added.

Thank you for asking nicely and respectfully.

With regard to the original poster, please search the term "shomer negiah" for more information. Hopefully, you can recognize that there are a range of behaviors and not all people have the same interpretation or actions regarding this practice. It does not limit usual physical contact with one's children or patients, but I would defer to those who practice it to answer the details of their particular beliefs and practices.

Regards

OBP

In the case of a threat to human life, it is even permitted to violate the Torah to save the person, as long as it does not involve idol worship, murder, or sexual immorality (Talmud - Pesachim 25a).

If it could help save a life, one must violate the Sabbath, eat forbidden foods, and even eat on Yom Kippur. (Pesachim 25a) The only laws that cannot be violated to preserve a life are those prohibiting murder, idolatry, and sexual immorality. (Yoma 85b; Sanhedrin 74a)In the case of a threat to human life, it is even permitted to violate the Torah to save the person, as long as it does not involve idol worship, murder, or sexual immorality (Talmud - Pesachim 25a).
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
Ok, let me further specify my question. I hope the term "Old Testament" doesn't offend anyone here. I am not quite sure what else to call it. Since I'm not Jewish, I am not sure if the Torah and what we call the "Old Testament" are exactly the same thing.

Anyway, again, for lack of better terms, is there anywhere in the Old Testament where the idea of saving lives can give permission of violating the Sabbath?

Again, sorry if the term is offensive. Please let me know what else I may call it that would be more politically correct.
 

pillowhead

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Oct 25, 2002
1,029
3
Visit site
Status
Firebird said:
Ok, let me further specify my question. I hope the term "Old Testament" doesn't offend anyone here. I am not quite sure what else to call it. Since I'm not Jewish, I am not sure if the Torah and what we call the "Old Testament" are exactly the same thing.

Anyway, again, for lack of better terms, is there anywhere in the Old Testament where the idea of saving lives can give permission of violating the Sabbath?

Again, sorry if the term is offensive. Please let me know what else I may call it that would be more politically correct.
Most Jews don't really take offense to the term old testament because it's simply a convenient term to use, especially in a predominantly Christian country. However, it does imply that there is a new testament which Jews do not believe. If you want to be more accurate, you can refer to the Jewish bible as the Tanakh. It is a Hebrew acronym for Torah (the 5 books of Moses--Geneis to Deuteronomy), Nevi'im (The Prophets--Joshua to Malachi) and Kethuvim (The Writings--Psalms to II Chronicles). So the Torah and the Old Testament are not synonymous, but one includes the other.

Note that none of this includes the Talmud which is a separate set of rabbinical teachings that are not the direct word of the big guy in the sky. (Jews do not write the name, even in generic English.) I am no great scholar of Torah, Tanakh, or Talmud, but my understanding is that the topic your referring to...whether or not it is permissible to violate Shabbat to save a life...is not directly referenced in the Torah or Tanakh. It is up to us as human beings to interpret the given laws which the rabbis do in the Talmud as someone mentioned above. Because the laws so clearly value life, then saving a life becomes more important than all other laws except murder, idolatory, and sexual immorality (which is always defined as rape...not shaking the hand of the opposite sex.)

You may have heard some saying like "Three Jews, four opinions." It's in our culture and history to argue and debate about EVERYTHING, so you will hardly ever come to a consensus "Jewish opinion" about anything. Most of the time we are only indirectly saving lives in hospital, so a more orthodox Jew may not feel comfortable working in the hospital on Shabbat while a more moderate Jew has no problem with it because s/he is working to save lives even s/he isn't directly running a code at the moment. In practicality, the vast majority of Jews have no problem whatsoever working on Shabbat.

hope that helps!
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
pillowhead said:
You may have heard some saying like "Three Jews, four opinions."
Hahaha...I haven't heard that before. I imagine if one was to make up a similar saying for Christianity, it would be "Three Christians, Thirty opinions." Which is funny, but sad since our religion is one of unity.

But anyway, thanks for the very informative reply. I personally have a similar issue with Sundays. In Christianity, we celebrate communion on Sunday mornings and I am very reluctant to miss this for any reason. I am sure, though, a reasonable accomodation can be made on both parts, when I get to clinicals.
 

monstermatch

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2004
142
0
Status
Firebird said:
To say that a person shouldn't become a doctor based on the fact that they won't shake hands is just ridiculous and who ever said that should be ashamed of themselves.
Bottom line: it doesn't matter.
I think I already cleared this up with the OP - she says she doesn't shake hands with colleagues/professors, I mistook this to mean she wouldn't shake hands with a patient. In fact, she corrected me and said she is certainly willing to shake hands/interact with/work with patients. It sounds to me that she has achieved a happy medium where she can balance religious doctrine with her professional obligations.

Otherwise, no shame here in my previous statements. In fact, let me reiterate - if you cannot reconcile religious faith with professional obligations as a doctor then its time to reexamine your career path. That is not to say that you can't be a religious doctor - just that you have to be prepared to loosen some rules in order to do your job well. To my mind that includes greeting your patients with good eye contact and a firm handshake. Hey, if you don't believe me, read up on the Step two CS exam - I guarantee you that you will lose points in every exam station if you omit a socially appropriate greeting, fail to wash your hands, and fail to drape the patient respectfully. This is what our patients expect of us, and we have an obligation to accomodate their wishes.
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
I understand that. But you are not professionally obligated to shake your patient's hand. You ARE professionally obligated to provide competent medical care, which does not include greeting the patient.

Yes, you might be low on business in a private practice setting, or you may not gain your patient's trust as easily if you don't shake their hand or greet them. But you most certainly CAN practice medicine in some way. Go into EM...they don't knock on doors, shake hands, or smile.

Trust me, I'm aware that on Step II you're supposed to greet the patient and what not. And yes, you might lose some points. But no one is going to follow you around when you're an attending and say, "Oh, you don't shake hands. You lose ten points!" I'm not trying to be sarcastic or rude. It's just that someone said that the person shouldn't go into medicine because they wouldn't shake hands with their patients. Medicine has lots of paths to take, not all of which requires a congenial person.

Oh by the way...I was kidding about the joke on EM. That's actually the field I want to go into.
 

monstermatch

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2004
142
0
Status
As a med student, we really don't have a great many useful functions - one good thing we can do is talk to patients, make them feel better during difficult times, and hopefully try to keep an eye out that their best interests aren't lost upon a busy intern. Moreover, they are doing YOU a favor by letting you learn new skills on their time and at their expense. Its a trade off, and in the end it should work for patient and student - in light of this, it is ESSENTIAL that you give patients the utmost respect, even if they are a fat, ugly pain in the ass crack-ho. This means looking them in the eye and shaking their hand when you walk in the room. If you can't do this then the patient will interperet your subsequent behavior as distant, callous, and uncaring. Do you have to give everyone a big hug when you walk in the room? Obviously no - but come on, some social niceties are a part of our job.
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
I guess I am going to just have to say I don't agree. Yes it's wonderful when a medical student/resident/attending can come in, be a social butterfly, and really make the patient feel comfortable even during a rough time. But is that necessary to practice medicine? No.

I guess what I'm wanting you to acknowledge is that instead of flat out telling this person they should get out of medicine, you COULD have said go into Pathology, Radiology, Trauma Surgery, or something where they don't have to interact with patients on a social basis. Yeah, maybe the process of getting there might be rough around the edges, but definitely doable.

I don't know where you're at in your medical training, but if you haven't reached the clinical aspect yet I think you might end up being surprised how that obligatory smile and handshake isn't quite as obligatory as you would think.
 

monstermatch

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2004
142
0
Status
Rads and Path - those guys spend most of their day communicating with other doctors one way or another - as they say, they're the "Dr's doctor." Maybe you should actually spend a day with a radiologist and a pathologist and you'll see for yourself that they can't get by with poor social skills any more than any other doctor. Since I'm a M4 and have already matched I can assure you that I know exactly what it is like to spend time with healthy patients, happy patients, miserable pateints, and dying patients, and every single one of them deserves the respect of proper decorum. You can keep kidding yourself here, but proper bedside manner is a part of our job and is a big part of becoming a real doctor and not just some phoney baloney "care provider."
 

Firebird

1K Member
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2001
1,190
3
Visit site
Status
monstermatch said:
Rads and Path - those guys spend most of their day communicating with other doctors one way or another - as they say, they're the "Dr's doctor." Maybe you should actually spend a day with a radiologist and a pathologist and you'll see for yourself that they can't get by with poor social skills any more than any other doctor. Since I'm a M4 and have already matched I can assure you that I know exactly what it is like to spend time with healthy patients, happy patients, miserable pateints, and dying patients, and every single one of them deserves the respect of proper decorum. You can keep kidding yourself here, but proper bedside manner is a part of our job and is a big part of becoming a real doctor and not just some phoney baloney "care provider."
I have spent 2 days with a pathologist and you know how many times she conferenced in person with a physician? Zero. I have spent several days in the ED and you know how many times I saw a Radiologist? Zero. They sit in their offices, type in the diagnosis, and that is that. Occassionally the phone rings. But they never had contact with patients. I know my time there was limited, but those were my experiences.

All I'm saying is that there is room in medicine for people who don't want to shake hands. You can be friendly, greet your patients respectfully, and speak to them in a helpful way. But never once do you have to shake their hand. I've seen ED doctors not do it. I've seen FP doctors not do it. Your patients will not die if you fail to shake their hand.

And I'm not saying this person would make a good doctor. But I AM saying they could be competent in providing medical care. I personally would aspire to be more than a medical care provider, and I intend whole-heartedly to present the "decorum" (a true three cylinder word) that you refer to.