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The perceived role of Islam in immigrant Muslim medical practice within the USA: an exploratory qualitative study


Background: Islam and Muslims are underrepresented in the medical literature and the influence of physician’s cultural beliefs and religious values upon the clinical encounter has been understudied.

Objective: To elicit the perceived influence of Islam upon the practice patterns of immigrant Muslim physicians in the USA.

Design: Ten face-to-face, in-depth, semistructured interviews with Muslim physicians from various backgrounds and specialties trained outside the USA and practising within the the country. Data were analysed according to the conventions of qualitative research using a modified grounded-theory approach.

Results: There were a variety of views on the role of Islam in medical practice. Several themes emerged from our interviews: (1) a trend to view Islam as enhancing virtuous professional behaviour; (2) the perception of Islam as influencing the scope of medical practice through setting boundaries on career choices, defining acceptable medical procedures and shaping social interactions with physician peers; (3) a perceived need for Islamic religious experts within Islamic medical ethical deliberation.

Limitations: This is a pilot study intended to yield themes and hypotheses for further investigation and is not meant to fully characterise Muslim physicians at large.

Conclusions: Immigrant Muslim physicians practising within the USA perceive Islam to play a variable role within their clinical practice, from influencing interpersonal relations and character development to affecting specialty choice and procedures performed. Areas of ethical challenges identified include catering to populations with lifestyles at odds with Islamic teachings, end-of-life care and maintaining a faith identity within the culture of medicine. Further study of the interplay between Islam and Muslim medical practice and the manner and degree to which Islamic values and law inform ethical decision-making is needed.

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