Is it right to mix religion and healthcare?

The BBC are asking whether it is right to mix religion and healthcare.  It comes off the back of a story detailing how doctors are demanding that NHS staff be given a right to discuss spiritual issues with patients as well as being allowed to offer to pray for them.

For those who have faith and a religion the spiritual aspect to their life can almost be as important as taking the medication and treatment provided by doctors.  However, should doctors and nurses be involved in that spiritual side?  I’d suggest not.  The chaplaincy systems operated within the NHS are where the spiritual aspect of getting better are rightly concentrated.  Having priests, ministers, pastors, imams (or whatever they are called by the patient) available to come and pray for/with, meditate and talk with patients is a very good idea and can be of great comfort to the patient.  I know that when I was in hospital recently that the visits made by a few of the church elders and one of the pastors was very comforting and helpful.

Doctors, nurses and church leaders are all specialist in their own areas and as such should be left to do the job that they do.  I don’t know about other faiths, but certainly in Christianity one does not choose to become a church leader, but rather is called to be one.  They are specially chosen by God to do the job that they do and this makes them much better equipped to do the job.

I remember reading a story in a book where a junior doctor was telling about the time when he called a priest in for a dying patient who was all on his own.  The patient had indicated in their patient records that they were a catholic.  The patient died that night, but he did not die alone.  The priest sat with him until the end, praying for him and such like.  No doctor or nurse could act in this way – the just don’t have the time!

What I am trying to say is that faith has a place in medicine for those who believe in a God, but to mix them together is not the best idea in the world.  The doctor-patient relationship works because of the distance between doctor and patient, yes there may be a relationship and/or rapport built up over a long period of time, but it is quite different to the sort of relationship you start entering into with prayer.  Prayer is deeply spiritual and I think that the spiritual bond created between doctor and patient were a doctor to pray with a patient would be counter-productive.

Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions?

5 thoughts on “Is it right to mix religion and healthcare?

  1. I’m a nurse and for a variety of reasons I agree – nursing care and religious beliefs are separate issues. Indeed our nursing code of conduct makes it very clear that we must not use our professional status to promote other concerns – this includes religion.

    One need only look at the case of Caroline Petrie in Somerset earlier this year to understand why.

    People can believe what they like but it’s inappopriate for nurses to get involved – it is so easy, after all to turn illness into an oportunity for predatory evangelism that simply preys on people’s desperation.


    Stuart Sorensen
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

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