Praying to which god, I wonder…

Praying to which god, I wonder… March 28, 2012

As a Muslim, I find it hard to put to words how obscene and revolting this report is. According to reports in the media, an elderly woman in a UK senior home may have died due to a delay in receiving medical treatment caused by a Muslim nurse who refused to tend to her until after he finished praying.

From The Telegraph:

Alzheimer’s sufferer Dorothy Griffiths, 87, was found sitting down after staff heard a bang and a carer went to the office for help to lift her.

But agency nurse Abdul Bhutto, who was in charge, said they would have to wait.

Carer Zoe Shaw told the Sheffield hearing: “It took between five and ten minutes because he was praying upstairs in the office on his prayer mat. A staff member told me we had to wait for him to finish.”

An ambulance was not called for nearly four hours after Mrs Griffiths fell from bed and cut her head and suffered a gash to her hip at the privately-run Valley Park Nursing Home in Wombwell, near Barnsley.

She died later in hospital. [MORE]

To say this is loathsome, unprofessional and un-Islamic is quite an understatement. If this is indeed what happened–and the media, especially the popular press in the UK, have been known to spread untruths in such situations–I hope this individual is punished to the fullest extent of the law.

I am also saddened by the knowledge that this will be seized upon by bigots to demonize Muslims. It has to be said that, as disturbing as the religious dimension to this case is, it is not about Shari`a or Islam. No Muslim jurist would defend this shocking dereliction of duty and simple humaneness.  Muslims are permitted to pause their prayers when there is a good reason, and this certainly would qualify.

If it is true that the home really had a policy barring staff from interrupting a Muslim colleague from praying in any situation then that policy needs to be changed.   I’m reminded of Jesus’ timeless observation in the Gospel of Mark. “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.” To subordinate human life itself to a religious rite, no matter how sacred, ignores such rites’ higher purpose in human life and ultimately makes a mockery of the sacred.

Sadly, as this website shows, incidents as bad as this happen with distressing regularity in senior homes across America (and, the UK, I assume). I have friends who’ve worked in senior care facilities, and the stories of abuse and neglect they tell are chilling and infuriating.

Clearly, the person in charge bears the greatest responsibility for this tragedy, but it also sounds to me like there was a training breakdown. The article mentions that another nurse who wished to provide medical assistance promptly did not realize she had the right to countermand her superior’s self-evidently irresponsible and illegal instructions in such an extreme case.

A very sad story.

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