Is your doctor a believer? If not, a new study suggests that the care he is giving you may be inferior to that of believing doctors. The study appears in the Journal of Medical Ethics, and in it Dr. Clive Seale surveys more than 3,700 British doctors, of whom 2,923 reported on how they took care of their last terminally ill patient. In short, “Doctors who are atheist or agnostic are twice as likely to make decisions that could end the lives of their terminally ill patients, compared to doctors who are very religious” (AP report).
Medical care is not value-neutral. That much is clear from this study. In fact, the researcher concludes that doctors are ethically bound to inform their patients how doctors’ values inform their clinical decision-making. Not if their values inform their decisions, but how.
If you are interested in reading the study, you can buy and download an electronic version here.