A paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics is suggesting that non religious doctors “were more likely than others to report having given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken decisions they expected or partly intended to end life” . This seems to have caused some furore on Radio 4 this am with a discussion about whether patients should thus ask about their doctors religious beliefs.
There is one really big problem with this study which hasn’t been addressed, and it’s quite simple. The doctors were asked to report their actions. They were asked what they thought of themselves. There was no outside independent agency assessing the difference between religious and non religious doctors actions.
My reading of the paper is this: religious doctors were less likely to see themselves as providing deep continuous sedation until death, whereas non religious doctors saw themselves as providing more deep sedation. Sure, religious beliefs may colour many things: but it may simply be colouring how doctors interpreted their actions.
As it stands, this paper simply doesn’t reflect what I see in practice.