What are the Women Health Rights in Saudi Arabia?

There is a general assumption that the women living in Saudi Arabia do not have the complete rights to their own health care and can also not provide their own consent for all medical procedures or treatments on them. This specific misconception is based on the common assumption that a Saudi woman must have permission from her husband or whoever is her legal guardian (father, son, husband) before she can receive any sort of medical care. These trivial misconceptions about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exist predominantly in the western world, however, it, unfortunately, exists amongst a few Saudi women who do not have complete knowledge of this issue. This is also the case for a few health care providers in the Kingdom (emphasis on FEW)[irp]

One of our avid readers had responded to one question made about the issue. The avid reader who herself is an obstetrician consultant says she has encountered this scenario many times throughout her career. The woman has stated that as soon as the women are told that a caesarean delivery will be done as the normal procedure cannot be done, I can often see my nurses or assisting doctors rush to find the husband and to take his approval or consent on the matter. For him to officially allow the procedure, he must sign a consent form for the procedure which will be done on his wife. Upon looking up this issue according to the Shariah law and the rules of the Ministry of Health regulation, it has been discovered that it is indeed malpractice which is being carried out due to negligence and ignorance of the medical staff.

The Committee of Senior Ulema issued a clear statement in 1984 in which they stated that prior to all medical treatments and procedures, the consent must be taken of the patient, be it male or female. This clearly shows that a woman can give her own consent for her own medical treatments and this is implemented in most of the health care facilities around the Kingdom. This statement was also distributed to all health care facilities by the Ministry of Health regulations, in which they clearly show that it is permissible in Islam for women to give consent of her medical treatments.

There are unfortunately some women still out there that are not aware of their right to consent to any medical treatment which they see fit. This is worse in the case of doctors who do not allow women to consent for their treatments, fearing that the male guardian would not be pleased by this. Such a practice can be extremely dangerous as it wastes precious time which is already extremely limited for the ailing.[irp]

The greatest right anybody can have is the right to better health and healthcare and this is a right which we cannot take away from anyone. Women who are not of good health will not be able to carry out her duties as a daughter, wife or a mother. It is also the duty of all the people of Saudi Arabia to clear out all misconceptions about the Great Kingdom.

Source: Al Arabiya

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