Medical Doctors Encounter Faith-Based Conflicts at Religious Hospitals

Journal of General Internal Medicine

According to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, one in five primary care doctors practicing in religiously associated health care organizations have witnessed a disagreement over faith-based patient care guidelines.

Debra B. Stulberg, MD, the Study's Lead Author said that the results, based on a countrywide study of 446 family physicians and internists, seem to be the first to record how often doctors conflict over institutional policies in domains like reproductive and end-of-life care.

Dr. Stulberg, Instructor in the Dept. of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, said, "It's an issue that patients and we, as physicians, should be aware of".

According to the Catholic Health Assn. of the United States, majority of the doctors who reported disagreements, worked in Catholic hospitals, and accounted for 12.5% of all U. S. community-based hospices and 15.5% of hospital admissions.

Catholic hospitals are obliged to follow the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' religious policies on health care, which impede contraception, abortion and sterilization and, in several cases, prohibit ceasing artificial hydration and nutrition.

When clashes crop up, 86% of surveyed doctors said that they would persuade patients to take the suggested treatment at another hospital.

10% said that they would recommend another treatment, which could be given at the religious hospital, and 4% endorsed infringing the hospital's rule to provide the care.