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Families' cultural and religious practices

Case study: How should Dr Lewis respond when a child is injured while fasting for religious reasons?

Dr LewisMrs Anwar who is 35 years old takes her 11-year-old daughter Nadirah into the accident and emergency department of her local hospital on a weekday afternoon. Nadirah fainted in the morning while standing in school assembly. Nadirah twisted her arm as she fell and it is now swollen and painful.

Nadirah sees Dr Lewis in the accident and emergency department. Dr Lewis examines Nadirah’s arm and decides that her wrist is sprained. She bandages Nadirah’s wrist and gives her some painkillers. She advises Nadirah and her mother that she should take rest and keep her wrist elevated to reduce the swelling.

Dr Lewis asks Nadirah what might have caused her to faint in school. Nadirah tells her that she has been feeling tired and having headaches for the past few days. She also mentions that she has been fasting with the rest of her family as part of Ramadan.

In paragraph 9 of Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors we say that doctors should develop their understanding of the practices and beliefs of the different cultural and religious communities they serve. We also say that doctors should make sure that their own cultural or religious background does not affect their objectivity. When deciding whether to raise child protection concerns with parents or other agencies doctors must consider the issues impartially.

In paragraphs 15 and 16 we also say that doctors must listen to children and young people and talk directly to them, taking into account their age and maturity. Doctors must take the views of children and young people into account, even if they are not mature enough to make decisions for themselves.