A study in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that doctors, independent of specialty, who described themselves as non-religious, were "more likely than others to report having given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken decisions they expected or partly intended to end life. …" The study concluded that "greater acknowledgement of doctors' values "should be advocated when it comes to clinical decision-making." What do you think? Do you agree with the findings of this study? Are a doctor's religious values, or lack thereof, critical components of the practice of medicine?
We don't like to talk about the subject of death and often mask it with euphemisms such as "passing away," and "going to a better place." So it is not unexpected that the issue of end-of-life care would be fraught with all kinds of ethical, spiritual and emotional baggage. Add to that a study indicating that a doctor's religious perspective may affect his or her decision about supporting the end of life for a terminally ill patient, and we can expect all kinds of strong reactions.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, my perspective on this subject is that we are all affected by our beliefs about life and death, and that includes doctors. To expect a doctor not to be influenced by his or her religious views is unrealistic. The question here is whose religious views we believe to be the right ones. The bias of this study seems to be that those doctors who choose to provide deep sedation that is likely to speed up the death process are doing a "bad" thing, while doctors who do not do so are doing a "good" thing.