A study by medical ethics experts suggests doctors and patients need to talk about religion. Researchers have examined responses from more than 11-hundred doctors. The results show differences between religious doctors..and those who are not religious. .

The co-author of the study, Doctor John Lantos with the Kansas City-based Center for Practical Bioethics, says the results are clear that referral patterns are shaped by the doctors’ religious beliefs. He says the more religious doctors are likely to refer someone suffering from depression or deep grief to clergy counseling. He says less religious doctors are more likely to send those patients to psychiatrists or psychologists.

Lantos suggests doctors and patients need to understand their degrees of religiosity to avoid a possible conflict in which a religious doctor would send a non-religious patient for clergy counseling or vice-versa.

Lantos says patients should be aware that doctors don’t, can’t or probably shouldn’t leave their religious beliefs at the door. He says patients who care about such things should ask their doctors about their religious beliefs. He says the conversation should be held early in the doctor-patient relationship.

Lantos says the study found only ten percent of the doctors surveyed profess no religious affiliation. Forty percent were Protestant, 20 percent Catholic, 14 percent Jewish, with the other 11 percent being Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu.

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