Monday, August 30, 2010

UK Study: Knowing Physician Religion Won't Help

George Flanagan, DMin, MA
Program Associate
Center for Practical Bioethics

New data won’t rescue us from hasty generalizations. Diversity is inherent among adherents of any world religion. Christianity, e.g., expresses these differences through denominationalism.

(What kind of Christian are you? I’m a Presbyterian. What kind of Presbyterian? Ad nauseum.)

Recent political and geopolitical experiences remind us that adherents of a religion are not ethically uniform. Even if they were uniform, the layperson not equipped to interpret an approach to end-of-life care simply by use of a religious name.

No religious name can simplistically summarize the complex worldview of individual adherents or their level of adherence to the religion’s teachings. It’s much like calling yourself a Republican: it doesn’t say it all.

In the UK study, paternalistic decision making based on the physician’s values rather than the patient’s is the issue. But knowing the name of the physician’s religion won’t help much. Few of us know enough about our own religion, let alone someone else’s, to draw conclusions about our doctor’s care for us when we’re dying.

We don’t need a noun. We need a conversation.


Religion and Medicine: Compatible?, Farr Curlin, MD and John Lantos, MD, The Bioethics Channel podcast, 14 minutes 35 seconds



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