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Conflicts: religion/spirituality affecting decisions in medical care.

Uncategorized Jun 22, 2020
There are times when spiritual beliefs and religious beliefs can conflict with standard medical care.
I have heard from some colleagues that they think that there is possible danger of religious and spiritual beliefs on peoples medical decisions.
The worry being, our health partners (patients) decide about their medical care based in favour of their religious or spiritual beliefs over standard medical practices.
How often do you think this occurs?
Truth is it doesn’t occur all that often. Based on the research on spirituality in health care, we know conflicts between religion/spiritual beliefs and medical care are not that common, but they do occur.
There is this assumption that those people with traditional religious beliefs will not seek standard medical care or be harder to treat because they believe in “God’s will” or that “God will take care of it”.
However most of our patients belong to traditional religious or spiritual practices maintain sensible policies when it comes to seeking medical care.
Some points to keep in mind:
1)Those who had a daily private devotion time were more likely to report adherent behaviour (58.9% vs. 44.2%, P>0.01)
2)By entering into the patient’s religious/spiritual worldview the physician is better able to handle situations where religious beliefs conflict with medical or psychiatric care, because it helps for the professional to understand the logic of the decision.
3)There is always a clear reason in the mind of patient for preferring religion over medicine when their health is at stake, however they are often not comfortable revealing why and hide this from their health professional.
4) A Patient to choose their spiritual/religious beliefs over standard medical care, can appear to be a totally irrational choice of treatment instead of a scientific proven therapy, which can create anger for health professionals and rejection of the patient which leads to arguments and a breakdown of communication .
5)Entering into the patients religious/spiritual world view will give you as a health professional how serious a matter is for a patient.
E.G. Sometimes this is in fear of being excluded from their community or even alienated from their meaning and purpose and belief system.
6) In situations where there is a conflict in beliefs with medical care, it can help for the health professional to seek help from the patient’s clergy or a chaplain to help understand the patients’ decision
We don’t need to be worried about addressing the needs of the spirit because we are afraid of the chance that religious/spiritual beliefs will conflict with medical care, majority times it does not, in fact it can help with adherence and strengthen the physician-patient communication.
Honouring and Serving,
Simran K. Rattan MD
REFERENCE: Koenig MD – Spirituality in Patient Care

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