A new British Medical Journal study has found that non-religious doctors are more likely to discuss end of life decisions with their patients. The study by Dr Clive Seale from the Centre for Health Sciences at Queen Mary University concludes that greater acknowledgement of the relationship between doctors’ values and clinical decision making would improve patient care.
The General Medical Council says that, while doctors should start from
the assumption that life should be prolonged, this should not be at any
cost. However, the study observed that religious doctors were less
likely to take measures to relieve pain or distress if this may have the
effect of shortening life.
Pepper Harow, BHA Campaigns Officer stated, “The news that religious doctors may be putting the welfare of their patients as a secondary consideration to their own religious beliefs will be alarming to many. Decisions on end of life care should be fully discussed with patients and their families so that people can make informed choices about the way their life comes to an end.
“If the practice of deep sedation, which may hasten death in some cases, is in the best interests of a patient who is in pain or distress, and the wishes of the patient or their family have been taken into account, the religious beliefs of the doctor should be immaterial. Patient care must come first. If religious doctors are not using such measures, despite guidance from the British Medical Association, this is not in the best interest of patients.”