Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (12):729-732 (2009)
Background: Medical chaperones (MC) are underutilised. The influence of Islamic culture on the use of MC is not known. Aim: To examine physicians’ use and perception of MC in Islamic culture. Setting: A major tertiary care hospital in Saudi Arabia. Methods: 315 self-administered questionnaires were distributed to attendees of grand rounds of 13 departments. Results: 186 (59%) questionnaires were completed. 64.5% of the respondents were 30–49 years old, 75.8% were men and 31.2% were in training; 79% had a clinic load of under 50 patients per week and 47.8% had postgraduate training (PGT) in an Islamic country. MC were reported to be infrequently (⩽25% of the time) used by 44.1% (69.2% female vs 39% male physicians, p = 0.001; 58.6% in training vs 36.8% attending, p = 0.007; 52.1% PGT in Islamic vs 35.6% in western countries, p = 0.027), offered by 52.7% (78.9% female vs 46.8% male physicians, p<0.001) and requested by 79% of patients. MC were reported to be commonly (>75% of the time) used, offered by physicians and requested by patients by 38.2%, 29% and 7.5% of respondents, respectively. The most frequently cited reasons for not using MC were privacy/confidentiality (36.6%) and understaffing (30.5%). Equal numbers of respondents perceived MC use as a protection for physicians or patients (67.7% and 65.6%, respectively). Conclusions: MC are underutilised even in Islamic culture, especially among female physicians. Training in western countries is favourably associated with MC use. Underutilisation appears to be related to privacy/confidentiality, understaffing and failure of patients to request a MC
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