Doctors who are not religious are more likely to take steps to help end a very sick patient's life than doctors who are very religious, according to the findings of a new study.
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, surveyed more than 3,700 doctors in the UK across a wide range of specialties such as neurology, palliative care, and general practice.
Researchers asked doctors about the last patient whom they had worked with who had died. The doctors answered questions about their own religious beliefs and ethnic background, as well as end of life care.
They were asked whether they gave continuous deep sedation until death to the last patient who had died and whether they had discussed decisions with the patient that would likely shorten their life.
The study found that the strength of a doctor's religious faith is related to the incidence of continuous deep sedation until death, confirming findings of previous research. Researchers also found that a doctor who reported being "very or extremely non-religious" had an increased likelihood of taking these kinds of decisions to end a patient's life.
Furthermore, doctors who said they were very religious were found to be less willing to discuss decisions expected or partly intended to end life. This result corroborates the findings of a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study that more religious doctors are less likely to believe that they should give a patient information about procedures to which they hold moral objections.
The study also found that specialists in care of the elderly were somewhat more likely to be Hindu or Muslim than other doctors.
Palliative care specialists were somewhat more likely to be Christian, religious and white, and ethnicity was largely unrelated to rates of reporting ethically controversial decisions. Christian Today