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 crown prince calls for establishing health center dedicated to Pakistani hero

Updated 11 min 14 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince calls for establishing health center dedicated to Pakistani hero

  • The directive was issued during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan on the first leg of his Asia tour
  • Khan managed to save 14 lives, but he drowned as he attempted to rescue the 15th person.

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called for the creation of a health center in Paksitan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province dedicated to the memory of a Pakistani hero who saved 14 lives in Jeddah’s 2009 floods, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

The directive was issued during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan on the first leg of his Asia tour.

In November 2009, as flash floods roared through the port city, Farman Ali Khan secured a rope to his waist and jumped into the water to rescue people.

He managed to save 14 lives, but he drowned as he attempted to rescue the 15th person.

He was posthumously awarded the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order by the Saudi government and Pakistan’s Tamgha-e-Shujat by then President Asif Ali Zardari. 

“What this man displayed is a rare act of heroism,” said Rania Khaled, an account executive in Jeddah. “He didn’t pause to think of where these people came from or their nationality — all he cared about was that everyone survived the terrible flood. As a result, he lost his life and that’s what makes his tale so heroic. He cared for humanity, not just his own well-being and safety.
“He set a very high example of what a human should aspire to be. Your background, race and nationality shouldn’t matter; what matters is that we all stand together and help each other. I think if people lived with a similar mindset to that of Khan, the world would be a better place.”
Razan Sijjeeni, a photography instructor in Jeddah, said: “I think what Khan did was not only heroic but also human. It says a lot about the kind of person he was in that moment when he chose to risk his life to save others. He gives us a lot to reflect on — who we are today and how much we should value human lives that are not necessarily related to us.”
Nora Al-Rifai, who is training to be a life coach, said that she hopes Khan’s widow and three daughters continue to receive the help and support they deserve.
“It’s a nice gesture that a Jeddah street was named after him as a reminder to all of us and the next generations of his selflessness and heroism.”