OK, I’m thinking we need a STAT consult from Walter Olsen at Overlawyered.com. If his blog isn’t on your list of daily reads, it should be.
A Muslim woman named Rona Mohammedi comes to the Somerset Medical Center emergency department with “severe chest pain.” She refuses to get undressed in front of a strange man so that EKG leads could be applied to her body in order to see whether she was having a heart attack. Already JCAHO is going to have a field day with this case.
Apparently the patient demanded that a woman perform the EKG and no women technicians were available. The patient waited in the emergency department for five hours before leaving against medical advice and going to another hospital. Now she is suing the first hospital for discrimination and for violating the patient’s bill of rights.
In the linked article, the author of a book on Muslim women’s civil rights says that “a number” of such lawsuits have been filed and some settlements and compromises have been reached.
If you undress the patient against her will, you’re sued for assault and for violating her religious rights.
If you don’t undress the patient, you’re sued for discrimination.
If you don’t undress the patient and you miss a medical problem, you’re sued for malpractice.
Kind of like bringing your car to a mechanic and threatening to sue him if he opens the hood, but also threatening to sue him if he doesn’t fix your car.
Yes, the patient’s initial request was only for a female EKG technician. But what if there were no female nurses? Or no female doctors? Or no female radiology technicians? Is the patient going to dress back up after her EKG and refuse further examination?
What if the EKG showed an acute MI? Thrombolytics and cath lab on hold until we can find an all-female staff?
If Jehovah’s Witnesses can refuse blood transfusions and then accept the responsibility for their actions, Muslim women who refuse to disrobe in the emergency department should do the same. This woman and her lawyer should be forced to reimburse the hospital for having to defend this frivolous lawsuit.
This case is another example of why we need to begin using video cameras to capture interactions in emergency department examination rooms.
By the way, does anyone know whether or not Muslim women are allowed to wear hijabs in prision? Or in court?
UPDATE JULY 15, 2010
First, thanks to Jenn and Muhammad for answering my questions in the comments section. Their answers and a comment on the New Jersey newspaper’s web site raise another important issue.
A commenter on the newspaper’s web site stated that “Rona’s husband is a NY Attorney, and the attorney covering the case is a partner in his law firm. This is probably more a case of entitlement and arrogance as opposed to the Hospital not respecting their religious rights.”
I checked for attorneys with the last name of “Mohammedi” on Martindale.com and wasn’t able to find an attorney in NY or in NJ with that last name. However, using Google, I did find an attorney named Omar Mohammedi who works in the NYC Commission on Human Rights who is the president of the New York Area Muslim Bar Association.
If what Jenn and Muhammad are saying is true regarding Muslim religious requirements, then it raises a question in my mind whether this patient may have purposely misstated the requirements of her religion so that she could get preferential treatment or possibly even as a pretense so that she could file a lawsuit.
If the patient really did overstate the requirements of her religion, Somerset Medical Center and any doctors named in the lawsuit should be filing their own lawsuit against the patient for fraud and filing ethics charges against her attorney and her attorney’s law firm for perpetuating the fraud.
Come to think of it, maybe they should file the lawsuit anyway and let a jury decide what really happened. That’s what lawsuits are for, right? Resolving disputes?