Letters - To heal and do no harm

07 Apr 2015 / 20:13 H.

    MUCH has been said and debated since Kelantan tabled the Syariah Criminal Code 11 1993 (Amendment 2015) or the Hudud Bill on March 19.
    Two prime arguments include the concerns that the preconditions for the implementation of hudud laws including the establishment of a pious and just society where there is no inequality or poverty have yet to be met.
    Second, the hudud bill as proposed, contravenes our Federal Constitution which since Independence has guided us as a multiracial and multi-religious nation living in harmony.
    Putting these two major objections aside, the medical practicality of implementing these corporal punishments (caning, amputation, stoning) and the death penalty has yet to be defined by PAS and the Kelantan government. It was reported that a member of Kelantan’s hudud implementation committee has claimed that a group of Muslim medical experts had offered their services to ensure that punishment will be administered professionally by resigning from being a medical doctor temporarily.
    We members of G25 laud the decisive reminder by the director-general of health on every doctor’s duty to “first do no harm” and the health minister’s directive that doctors from the ministry will not be allowed to perform amputation on criminals.
    The principles that guide doctors are not only enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath but also in the four basic moral commitments – respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice.
    In health care, respecting people’s autonomy has many implications. It requires doctors to consult their patients and obtain their agreement before things are done unto them, a process that is unlikely to occur in hudud.
    The term beneficence connotes acts of mercy, kindness, and charity. Broadly it includes all forms of action intended to benefit or promote the good of other persons. It is a doctor’s moral obligation to act for the others’ benefit, helping them to further their important and legitimate interests, often by preventing or removing possible harm. This principle goes with non-maleficence which is derived from the maxim primum non nocere, a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm”, one of the fundamental principles of medical ethics. The oath that doctors take is to heal and not to do otherwise.
    Finally, the fourth ethical principle in medicine is justice. At the heart of the debate around the hudud bill is also justice, a fundamental principle of the syariah legal system. Where is the equality and justice when the hudud laws as proposed do not provide adequate protection for the poor and women?
    As can be seen by these arguments, the ethical principles that guide every doctor are in tandem with the same principles upheld by Islam. It should leave no doubt for Muslim doctors that partaking in amputation, stoning and the death penalty not only contravene their professional ethical principles but also that of Islam.


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