36 J. Med. Ethics: The Role of Doctors' Religious Faith and Ethnicity in Taking Ethically Controversial Decisions during End-of-Life Care

By Scale, Clive | Issues in Law & Medicine, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

36 J. Med. Ethics: The Role of Doctors' Religious Faith and Ethnicity in Taking Ethically Controversial Decisions during End-of-Life Care


Scale, Clive, Issues in Law & Medicine


The prevalence of religious faith among doctors and its relationship with decisionmaking in end-of-life care is not well documented. The impact of ethnic differences on this is also poorly understood. This study compares ethnicity and religious faith in the medical and general UK populations, and reports on their associations with ethically controversial decisions made when providing care to dying patients.

Specialists in care of older persons were somewhat more likely to be Hindu or Muslim than other doctors; palliative care specialists were somewhat more likely to be Christian, religious and "white" than others. Ethnicity was largely unrelated to rates of reporting ethically controversial decisions. Independent of specialty, doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than others to report having given continuous deep dedication until death, having made decisions they expected or partly intended to end life, and to have discussed these decisions with patients judged to have the capacity to participate in discussions. Specialty was independently related to wide variations in the reporting of decisions made with some intent to end life, with doctors in "other hospital" specialties being almost ten times as likely to report this when compared with palliative medicine specialists, regardless of religious faith. …

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