End-of-life care could depend on physician's religion, study suggests

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The religious beliefs of your physician could impact the care you receive at the end of life, according to a new British study.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London surveyed more than 3,700 United Kingdom physicians about their religious views, ethnicity and the care they give to dying patients. Those who described themselves as very or extremely religious were less likely to discuss treatment options that could hasten death, even if patients were deemed fit to have such a discussion, according to the survey results.

Conversely, atheists and agnostics were more likely to discuss all treatment options, and were almost twice as likely to have provided treatment that “they expected or partly intended to end life.” Non-religious doctors also were more likely to provide continuous, deep sedation of terminal patients, according to the report.

Physicians who deal with terminal patients at the end of life should be more aware of how their religious views affect the treatment decisions they make, said lead researcher Dr. Clive Seale. His report appears in the Aug. 25 online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics.