Hudud – MMA’s knee jerk response


FMT LETTER: From Dr Faris Marwan, via e-mail

As a medical doctor, I am ashamed that Malaysian Medical Association president has decided to use his spinal column to respond to an important issue, instead of using his higher functioning cerebral organ. I better get used to be ashamed anyway.

Nowadays the medical profession is under scrutiny everywhere. You can just name it, a week will not pass by peacefully without Harian Metro hastily protruding into the dealings of a once noble, highly respected profession.

This time, it was the New Straits Times which once again swiftly misquoted the Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar’s intention to seek experts medical opinions and the MMA president fell for it. Welcome to politics, Dr! The MMA president’s reaction is truly unprecedented, and insensitive.

One would expect a certain degree of rationality and understanding from the president of an organisation that represents the interest of medical profession in Malaysia. Nevertheless, on hindsight, MMA’s track record has been, at best, below par.

Compared to medical associations in other countries, the MMA is not doing its task in improving  job conditions and working culture of doctors. What to expect from its role in advocating best medical practices and protecting patients’ best interest. But, let’s save that for another time.

The issue of hudud is a great opportunity for the medical profession to actively engage in paving a fresh political landscape in Malaysia, where people of all religions and races can live and disagree respectfully.

Ethics and the law are man-made, whereas the Islamic ruling is from God. As a Muslim doctor, I am a Muslim first. At the moment, the fact that syariah law has not been fully implemented has made it compulsory on me to make it happen.

Not necessarily as the one who would enforce the punishment, but more than that; I believe the medical fraternity as a whole should work hand in hand with the religious authority to ensure the philosophy of the ruling can be attained.

With regard to amputation of thief’s hand, I believe it is more important to address the issue of how it should be done rather than who should do it. The knowledge and skills to do it can be learnt but the conundrum of what knowledge and skills is required will necessitate experts’ insight from both religious and medical backgrounds.

Thus, efforts by Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah as chairperson of the technical committee in seeking medical opinion should be welcome and treated with respect and dignity of the profession. Technically, the amputation of thief’s hand should be conducted in a way not to harm his or her life.

Threat to his or her life could be due to blood loss, infection and other comorbidities. Excessive blood loss can be prevented by identifying two main arteries supplying blood to the hands. Infection should be prevented by safeguarding hygiene prior, during and after the procedure.

Comorbidities should be addressed by having a thorough medical check-up and optimisation prior to the event. Also, the technique of the amputation should guarantee safe healing of the stump and retained integrity of remaining bones.

Contrary to unfounded imagination, the amputation does not have to be painful. The philosophy of the punishment is just to separate the hand from the forearm. Thus, insight from anaesthesia colleagues is required. The possibility of phantom limb syndrome can also be contemplated.

Also, another important technicality to consider is to help the offenders cope with life without a hand. We would like to see the offender return to the community and live life as best he or she can. So, counselling, rehabilitation and occupational therapy is vital.

Hence, with all respect reserved for our friendly butchers out there, there are plenty of roles that the medical profession should contribute for the implementation of God’s will. I do not know about MMA members but it is a shame for me if I refused to be part in any of this.

For sure, I know I will not be judged based on whether hudud is implemented successfully or not. But, I will be judged based on the effort of a struggling obedient servant.