Saudi health ministry provides clarity on female patients’ consent

In the future, consent to treatment will only have to be gained from the next of kin, not necessarily a male guardian, if the patient is under the age of 18. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 January 2019
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Saudi health ministry provides clarity on female patients’ consent

  • Dr. Yassir Kalakitawi: “If a male guardian disapproves, he is then referred to an ethics committee to discuss the matter further”

RIYADH: The confusion surrounding whether women need a male guardian’s permission to undergo vital childbirth procedures, including C-sections, was cleared on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said it had eased the way for expectant mothers to make their own decisions over medical interventions.
Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abdulaali said patients’ rights were a “top priority” in meeting the Kingdom’s ethical standards in health care.
“Female patients’ rights are handled with a great deal of attention and effort,” he added. “Women are provided the right to give their consent for medical care, including surgical procedures, in accordance with the policies and procedures.”
He stressed that this is “nothing new,” but part of ongoing “efforts to engage the community and promote positive behavior.” He said it is an “awareness campaign” that could potentially save many lives.
Dr. Emad Sagr, chairman of the women’s health unit at the International Medical Center in Jeddah, said the ministry’s announcement has cleared up any confusions.
Previously, he said, there had been no firm guidelines in place to inform medical professionals on female rights of consent without first getting a male guardian’s permission.
This uncertainty had the potential to put pregnant women at risk, particularly if a C-section was urgently required, he added.
“Twenty years ago, we used to go by the fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law),” Sagr told Arab News.
“I’ve never waited for the consent of a male guardian, as there’s nothing clear in Shariah law which states that a pregnant woman isn’t allowed to have a say about her own body.”
He said the ministry’s statement also covered general surgical interventions on women. “It’s the individual woman’s life that might be at stake, and they should have the right to protect themselves,” Sagr added.
He said the only procedure that required both the husband’s and wife’s approval was “sterilization.”
In the past, some hospitals adopted their own policies surrounding informed consent for female surgical interventions. If a male guardian refused to give his consent, the matter was referred to an ethics committee.
In the future, consent to treatment will only have to be gained from the next of kin, not necessarily a male guardian, if the patient is under the age of 18.
“Hospitals are now bound by the consent form signed by a female patient,” said Dr. Yassir Kalakitawi, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah.
“If a male guardian disapproves, he is then referred to an ethics committee to discuss the matter further.”
Dr. Firas Jameel, a GP, said whenever possible, doctors would still always recommend that families discuss any intervention procedures in advance with medical experts.


Saudi Arabia plans to create 561,000 jobs under new digital employment initiative

Updated 40 min 28 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia plans to create 561,000 jobs under new digital employment initiative

  • Qiwa program aims to achieve the Vision 2030 goal of reducing unemployment rate to 7 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has revealed ambitious plans to create more than 561,000 private-sector jobs by 2023 as part of a new digital era for the Kingdom’s labor market.

Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi made the announcement at the launch of the Qiwa online platform, which aims to combine all the country’s employment services under one electronic roof.

Through digitalization, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development hopes to not only boost job opportunities for Saudi men and women, but also improve workplace efficiency and productivity, and attract international investment.

Al-Rajhi said: “The ministry has entered into partnerships and agreements to settle more than 561,000 job opportunities in the private sector until 2023,” and the minister added that 45,000 Saudis had entered the labor market in the last three months.

The new labor force platform will consolidate employment-related e-services already offered to job seekers, employees and employers and plans are in the pipeline to plug a further 71 services into the system.

The Qiwa program aims to provide Saudi government officials with a data mine of statistical information to tackle business challenges facing employers and employees, help create new job opportunities, and achieve the Vision 2030 goal of reducing the country’s unemployment rate to 7 percent. Another key objective is to strategically enhance the Kingdom’s business environment to make it more attractive to local and international investors.

A ministry statement issued to Arab News, said: “The Qiwa platform will have an impact on motivating investors. It will also re-engineer policies and procedures for all services provided to individuals and enterprises on a strong platform that will make a quantum leap in the business world and turn the Saudi market into an attractive market for opportunities and potential for competencies.

“The services are provided in both Arabic and English in order to enable foreign investors to benefit from the services of a strong platform,” the statement added.

The e-services include programs to encourage Saudis to access jobs in their locality by improving the workplace environment and making it more appealing to men and women.

The Kingdom’s public sector is quickly adapting to international standards and labor market demands by digitalizing services, while the ministry is using the latest business management methods to help public organizations increase the competency and productivity of workers while creating a competitive labor market that can partner with the private sector.