Thursday, August 26, 2010

UK Study: Nonreligious Doctors Hasten Death More

UK Study: Nonreligious Doctors Hasten Death More

UK study: Nonreligious doctors twice as likely to hasten death of terminally
ill patients
The Associated Press

By MARIA CHENG AP Medical Writer
LONDON August 26, 2010 (AP)

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, according to a new study in Britain.

Dr. Clive Seale, a professor at Barts and the London School of Medicine and
Dentistry, conducted a random mail survey of more than 3,700 doctors across
Britain, of whom 2,923 reported on how they took care of their last terminal
patient.

Many of the doctors surveyed were neurologists, doctors specializing in the
care of the elderly, and palliative care, though other specialists like
family doctors, were also included.

Doctors who described themselves as "extremely" or "very nonreligious" were
nearly twice as likely to report having made decisions like providing
continuous deep sedation, which could accelerate a patient's death.

To ensure doctors are acting in accordance with their patients' wishes,
Seale wrote that "nonreligious doctors should confess their predilections to
their patients."

Seale also found that doctors who were religious were much less likely to
have talked about end of life treatment decisions with their patients.

According to guidelines from the British Medical Association, doctors must
not allow their religious beliefs to interfere with their treatment of
patients.

"Whatever your personal beliefs may be...you must be respectful of the
patient's dignity and views," the association says.

The guidelines also recommend that when patients are unable to communicate
their wishes, doctors must not simply rely on their own values, but that
they "should take all reasonable steps to maximize the patient's ability to
participate in the decision-making process."

The study was paid for by Britain's National Council for Palliative Care and
was published online Thursday in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Online: www.jme.bmj.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=11486868

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