Medical Ethics: Religion Does Matter

A new study from the UK (published in the Journal of Medical Ethics) shows that non-religious doctors are more likely to make decisions which end the lives of their patients.  Of course, this can be spun the opposite direction too, as this USA Today blogger has done.

This study is very interesting for several reasons.  First, because it shows beliefs really do have practical consequences.  You might think that was obvious, but it is always nice to have the obvious confirmed.  Second, I think it should superficially puzzle us.  Why would non-religious doctors try less to extend life?  If this is all the life we have (i.e. there is no afterlife) shouldn’t the non-religious try harder to preserve it?  And if religious doctors believe in an afterlife, shouldn’t they be less concerned about sending people on their way to “the other side”?

Of course, I said this is  “superficial” because the retort is obvious.  Most religions encountered among UK doctors probably promote the preservation of life, and non-religious doctors lack this impetus towards preserving life.

But still, why should religion and life preservation, non-religion and non-life align with each other?  Why not the seemingly more logical opposite? I have my ideas and I will share them some other day.

Until then, what do you think?

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