Most of us would imagine that our medical care, especially end-of-life care, is not subject to our physician's personal religious beliefs. A recent British survey, however, shows that this very well may be the case. Physicians in the United Kingdom were asked to identify their level of religiosity and then questioned about the kinds of care they would discuss and administer to patients at the end of life.
Those who self-identified as "extremely religious" were less likely to suggest or even discuss care that would shorten life. On the other hand, physicians who self-identified as "extremely non-religious" were found to have higher rates of not only discussion of but administration of treatments, such as deep sleep sedation, that would shorten life.
Clive Seale, PhD, who reported the findings online in the British Medical Journal
added that these findings echoed those in a US study which found religious physicians reluctant to discuss issues like abortion to which they themselves were opposed on moral grounds. He concluded by suggesting that physicians may benefit from becoming more aware of outlooks outside their own as they might become important when making decisions about end-of-life care.
It is inevitable that everyone, even doctors, will bring their culture, background, beliefs and all sorts of other piecesthat make up their identities into the workplace. So, instead of trying to separate doctors from their religious beliefs, we suggest that the doctors first become fully aware of how their beliefs impact the way they offer care. Taking that first step can help inform important care decisions and really create an opening for communication between doctor and patient.
What do you think? Is it a good thing that religious physicians are avoiding discussing care that would shorten life? Is it the patient’s responsibility to step up and communicate how he/she would like to be cared for? Or is it the doctors’? Sound off in our comments section and let us know what you think.