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Physicians' response to religion-related conflicts in medicine

CHICAGO Physicians may encounter situations in which their medical recommendations conflict with a patient's religious beliefs, according to an article in the January 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, many patients use their religious beliefs and values to understand, cope with, and navigate their experience of illness, and at times, these beliefs will conflict with physicians' recommendations. How physicians should act in response to such discrepancies has been a topic of discussion; however, little is know about how these disagreements should actually be negotiated.

Farr A. Curlin, M.D., from the University of Chicago, and colleagues conducted one-to-one, in-depth interviews with 21 physicians in order to explore conflicts between medical recommendations and patients' religious commitments. Of the physicians interviewed, seven identified themselves as non-religious (either no affiliation with or no practice of any religion), six as Protestant, four as Jewish, two as Catholic, one as Hindu, and one as Buddhist.

Nearly all of the physicians interviewed related circumstances in which patients used religious terms to describe their disagreement with medical recommendations. In general, the researchers found that patients most often refuse medical recommendations for religious reasons in scenarios of relative medical uncertainty in which treatment offers moderate possibilities of benefit, or in situations in which treatment is intended to decrease risks of adverse events in the future. The researchers also found that if physicians believed a religious patient would suffer harm by not following their recommendations, "the physician's commitment to preserving the patient's health may lead the physician to attempt to persuade the patient to reconsider his or her decision."

The authors write: "Our findings suggest that physicians alwa
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Contact: John Easton
773-702-6241
JAMA and Archives Journals
10-Jan-2005


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