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Doc's Moral Beliefs: Patient Dilemma?

Survey Finds 14% of Doctors Don't Feel Obliged to Present All Medical Options to Patients

About the Study continued...

They worked in specialties including family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Here's a quick look at the group:

  • Nearly three-quarters were men.
  • Almost eight in 10 were white.
  • 90% said they attend religious services at least once per month.
  • About one-in-three noted religion as a key part of their lives.

When asked their religious affiliation, 60% said they were Christian, 16% said they were Jewish, 14% checked a box marked "other," and 10% checked a box marked "none."

Survey Details

The survey included this question: "If a patient requests a legal medical procedure, but the patients' physician objects to the procedure for religious or moral reasons, does the physician have an obligation to present all possible options to the patient, including information about obtaining the requested procedure?"

That question resulted in the 86% to 8% split.

When asked if morally conflicted doctors are ethically permitted to "plainly" describe their objections to patients, 63% said yes, while 22% said no, and 15% were undecided.

When asked if morally conflicted doctors had an obligation to refer the patient to someone who didn't object to the requested procedure, 71% said yes, 18% said no, and 11% were undecided.

Thorny Issues

The survey also covered the doctors' personal beliefs about three controversial clinical practices: sedating dying patients to unconsciousness, abortion for failed contraception, and the prescription of birth control to teens age 14-16 years without parental consent.

Not all the doctors answered those questions, although in each case, about 1,100 did.

Of the doctors who answered the sedation question, 83% didn't object while 17% objected to that practice.

On the abortion question, 48% of respondents didn't object and 52% objected to that practice.

And for the teen birth control question, 58% didn't object while 42% objected to that practice.

The survey didn't ask doctors about their own personal experiences in treating patients.

Therefore, it's not clear if the doctors had faced such dilemmas or if they treat their patients based on the opinions they expressed in the survey.

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