Why believers make better doctors

In our pluralistic society, the notion of choosing a business or professional based upon faith is considered discriminatory. We hear a lot about businesses refusing to provide particular services based upon moral principles, but not about customers, unless it suits the Left’s agenda. “I will “I will gladly be your doctor but I will not prescribe contraceptives” becomes “He refused to give me health care!” On the other hand, a doctor pressuring a woman to *use* birth control is perfectly fine, and if she refuses to go to that doctor, she’s the one who’s considered extremist.

As I’ve written many times, and is one of the founding principles of this blog, it is very difficult to find doctors who support patients’ moral choices: not to profit from or participate in fetal tissue or embryonic stem cell research, not to use artificial birth control, etc. People who don’t include morality in their medical decisions–and those who do but take a very broad interpretation of “remote material cooperation”–seem to not understand why this is important to some of us patients. I’m sure many people would rightly object to eating at a restaurant with a sign saying “whites only.” They would understand why supporting a business owned by a KKK owner is objectionable. However, they don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to support a medical business that engages in practices we find morally repugnant: this is both because they think it’s wrong to *consider* those actions wrong and because they refuse to acknowledge that medicine is a “business.”

So that brings me to why, even if we’re not talking about moral issues, I find it’s important to generally choose, when possible, doctors who are people of faith. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re Catholics, or even Christians, but they have to believe in some sort of “higher power.” I believe it’s a saying, but I’ve often found that doctors who don’t believe in God think they are God.

If a doctor thinks that religion is stupid and irrational, what does he think about patients who are believers? If he doesn’t trust your discernment about spiritual and moral matters, will he trust your discernment about your own health and healthcare decisions?

If she doesn’t believe in God, when difficult moral issues do arise (e.g. end of life issues), will she be more willing to take the easy way out?

I’ve encountered many doctors over the years who have mocked me for praying, flat-out side, “There are no such things as miracles,” etc. A year after my 1996 aortic root replacement, some of the tissue around the stitches of my artificial valve started to leak. During my echo, the tech got really quiet. He got up and got the cardiologist, who redid the echo himself, very slowly. You know something was seriously wrong. He came in afterwards and gave us the report. He ordered me to bed rest for a year. A year later, they were worse. A year after that, I expected them to be even worse. This time, he came in with his jaw metaphorically on the floor, saying, “They healed!!” Ever since then, every doctor I’ve told that story to has had one of two reactions: 1. “Wow, a miracle!” or 2. “That doesn’t happen. He’s probably an idiot and misread the echoes.” Yeah, that’s why he did it personally, slowly, right away, to double-check the technician’s initial finding.

For a few years in Northern Virginia, I went to one of the highest-rated cardiologists in that region, and he said that prayer and “faith,” generically, is a huge part of his practice, that he finds patients who pray and meditate perform far better than those who don’t.

6 responses to “Why believers make better doctors

  1. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad run of experience with doctors, but I think it’s quite atypical. Regardless of their own personal beliefs, no doctor is supposed to “pressure” a patient to do ANYTHING. All the training orients toward OFFERING treatments to assist in alleviating problems. In any case, all patients have an absolute right to refuse any solution offered, and any doctor who violates that can lose their license.

    A doctor may have rights as far as what treatments they do or do not wish to offer, however they still must adhere to the rules of whatever kind of practice they work in. It’s a contractual obligation, part of maintaining license as a business. Therefore a doctor with moral objections to contraceptives or abortions doesn’t have an absolute right to work at a clinic or hospital where such treatments are normally offered. Patients can go where the services offered are the ones they seek. Their needs come first.

    (I’ve worked in hospitals, imaging centers, dementia care, chiropractic and currently an urgent care clinic.)

    • Thanks, but I think you’re missing something. My point is that most of the bad doctors I’ve encountered have been atheists and agnostics, and that the same intellectual arrogance that makes one an agnostic or atheist translates into professional arrogance (cf House and Bones). Conversely, the best physicians I’ve encountered (and I’ve known a lot) have been people of faith.

      • No, I understood you. I said your experience was atypical as a kinder way of saying it’s anecdotal, based on your own limited experience. You may have had experience with a few dozen doctors at best. I’ve known and worked with several hundred, and even at that wouldn’t call it enough of a sample to indicate any generalizations.

        Your experience is your experience, and valid as such, but it says nothing definitive about the effect of faith or religious affiliation upon competence as a doctor.

      • GodsGadfly

        Did I ever claim it *wasn’t* anecdotal? As I repeatedly point out to people, this is a *blog*, not an academic journal.
        As for experience, I’ve dealt with “a few dozen” doctors in the past year alone.
        Competence and bedside manner are two very different things.
        Claiming my experience isn’t statistically significant enough (or somehow less significant than your own) invalidate the logical connection between the intellectual arrogance that underlies atheism and professional arrogance? Even if I’d never met a single doctor in my life, it would still stand to reason that someone who thinks religious people are stupid is going to think that of patients.

      • The point is, you made a generalization based on your experience, and anecdotal evidence isn’t generally applicable outside of the context of your own life. If you intend to prove your assertion, you’ll have to present more objective evidence. You’re entitled to an opinion, but without anything concrete to back it up, it’s your “truth” and no one else’s.

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