Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Healing Faith

PARIS: A report issued Monday by a government-appointed panel recommended that France adopt a charter to keep religious traditions and beliefs out of its hospitals and other institutions.

Far softer than a 2004 law that banned Muslim head scarves and other "ostentatious" religious signs from public classrooms, the proposed charter is, like the head scarf law, an effort to ensure the secular nature of France.

In May, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin asked the High Council on Integration to prepare recommendations to ensure secularism in public institutions. It submitted its proposal for a charter on Monday.

Male doctors, particularly in maternity wards, say they are increasingly subject to insults, even blows, most often by men opposed to nudity or physical contact with their wives and daughters.

The conviction last week of Fouhad Ben Moussa highlighted the issue. He pulled Jean-François Oury, head of the maternity ward of Robert Debré Hospital in Paris, from a hospital room in September and slapped him after the doctor examined his wife, who had hemorrhaged after giving birth, according to court testimony.

The National Congress of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians, unusually, issued a statement in October asking, "Do gynecologists and obstetricians now need police protection to practice?"

The statement affirmed that male and female doctors would treat patients "whatever their sex," and said it was the woman who had freedom "to determine contraception, abortion, sterilization without the opinion of her husband."

No word yet on whether doctors will still be allowed to pray over patients whenever surgeries go awry.


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