Can’t touch this: Muslim students sue Dutch medical university over physical exam

Erasmus MC (Photo from
Two Muslim students have filed a case against Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam after a request for an exemption from the physical examination requirement was turned down. The curriculum requires a cross-sex physical exam by course mates.

The two Muslim girls filed a case against Erasmus MC at the Board of Appeal for Higher Education in The Hague, De Volkskrant daily reported Tuesday.

All students in the course must go through a physical examination provided by their fellow students. The exam involves looking at the chest, abdomen, and legs, and must be performed both by a male and female student.

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The requirement raised concerns among the Muslim students, who did not want to be examined by a male. However, they stressed that in the future they would practice without making such distinctions.

One of them initially applied for an exemption, but her request was denied. Although the other student has already completed the subject, she decided to support her colleague at the Board of Appeals.

David Drexhage from Erasmus MC says the practical experience student gain during such exams is important for their professional skills. “The students also have to experience how an examination feels for a patient. That promotes understanding.

Students are aware that this part of the studying process is required during enrollment, he added.

Erasmus MC believes that if the Board of Appeals makes a decision in favor of the students, it will have profound implications for the entire course procedure. The Board of Appeals is expected to make a decision in about six weeks.