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Role of religion/spirituality in the context of genetic counseling: health professionals' experiences in an Islamic country

Khadijah Bakur, Jumana Al-Aama, Zuhair Alhassnan, Helen Brooks, Tara Clancy, Saud Takroni, Fiona Ulph.


Background: Religion/spirituality plays a vital role in most aspects of Muslims' lives. However, there has been little research on the part of religion/spirituality in health professionals' clinical experience with patients with
genetic disorders, including long QT syndrome.
Methods: This qualitative study explored health professionals' views working in Saudi Arabia concerning the role of Islam in their clinical practice. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 12 health professionals from two cardiogenetic centers in Saudi Arabia.
Results: The participants included clinical geneticists (4/12), genetic counselor (1/12), molecular geneticists (2/12), cardiologists (3/12), and patient coordinators (2/12). The data were analyzed using thematic analysis, and three main themes were identified: (1) the value attributed to religion/spirituality in the context of genetic counseling, (2) professional and patient-level barriers to formal religious assessment and conversations in the context of genetic counseling, and (3) incorporating religion/spirituality into genetic counseling sessions.
Conclusion: The study sheds light on the advantages of using informal religious language to establish rapport and build trust between patients and health professionals in genetic counseling. It also draws attention to the importance of exploring patients' willingness to discuss religious issues. Participants identified a lack of appropriate training as a significant barrier to attending to patients' religious/spiritual needs during genetic counseling.

Key words: Islam, religion/spirituality, genetic counseling, Saudi Arabia, long QT syndrome, lived experience

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