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Doctors' faith disputed as factor in helping poor

 
 
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 05:57 am
Religious doctors are more likely to consider their profession a "calling" but no more likely to treat underserved patients than their secular counterparts, according to a new study from the University of Chicago.

The study, based on a mail survey of more than 1,100 American physicians, found that 31 percent of doctors who described themselves as religious reported that they serve primarily poor or uninsured communities, compared with 35 percent of doctors who had no religious affiliation.


Quote:
ABSTRACT
PURPOSE Religious traditions call their members to care for the poor and marginalized, yet no study has examined whether physicians' religious characteristics are associated with practice among the underserved. This study examines whether physicians' self-reported religious characteristics and sense of calling in their work are associated with practice among the underserved.

METHODS This study entailed a cross-sectional survey by mail of a stratified random sample of 2,000 practicing US physicians from all specialties.

RESULTS The response rate was 63%. Twenty-six percent of US physicians reported that their patient populations are considered underserved. Physicians who were more likely to report practice among the underserved included those who were highly spiritual (multivariate odds ratio [OR] = 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-2.7], those who strongly agreed that their religious beliefs influenced their practice of medicine (OR = 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.5), and those who strongly agreed that the family in which they were raised emphasized service to the poor (OR = 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0-2.7). Physicians who were more religious in general, as measured by intrinsic religiosity or frequency of attendance at religious services, were much more likely to conceive of the practice of medicine as a calling but not more likely to report practice among the underserved.

CONCLUSIONS Physicians who are more religious do not appear to disproportionately care for the underserved

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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 05:57 am
Quote:
Non-religious doctors just as likely to care for poor: study

July 31, 2007

BY SUSAN HOGAN/ALBACH Religion Reporter [email protected]

Atheist and agnostic doctors are as likely to provide care for the poor as religious physicians, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital.

Doctors who said they were "spiritual, but not religious," also ranked high in caring for the poor.

"We can say a lot of doctors are doing a lot of good, whether religious or not," said Dr. Farr Curlin, one of the authors of the study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The study is based on a survey of 2,000 doctors with a 63 percent response rate. Thirty-five percent of non-religious doctors, compared with 31 percent of religious doctors, said they were likely to care for people with little or no health insurance.
Most studies show religious people more likely than others to help the poor, according to Dr. Harold Koenig, director for the Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality and Health at Duke University.

"But nobody has looked at this question in physicians," he said. "It's the largest and most systematic study of U.S. physicians. The fact that there weren't large differences is interesting."

He cautioned that the survey tool had limitations based on how religion was measured.

Doctors were asked to describe their "intrinsic religiosity," level of spirituality and frequency of attendance at religious services. Of the participating doctors, 110 said they had no religious affiliation.

"People who are not religious generally believe that you have to help other people because this is the only life you have," said Hemant Mehta of Orland Park, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Seeing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes.

Curlin, who attends a nondenominational church, said the findings disappointed him.

"Caring for the poor is an expression of faithfulness and commitment," he said. "But many religious physicians don't make the connection."

"People who are not religious generally believe that you have to help other people because this is the only life you have."
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 05:59 am
Quote:
Doctors' faith disputed as factor in helping poor
By Robert Mitchum

Tribune staff reporter

July 31, 2007

Religious doctors are more likely to consider their profession a "calling" but no more likely to treat underserved patients than their secular counterparts, according to a new study from the University of Chicago.

The study, based on a mail survey of more than 1,100 American physicians, found that 31 percent of doctors who described themselves as religious reported that they serve primarily poor or uninsured communities, compared with 35 percent of doctors who had no religious affiliation.

Those two figures were statistically equal, but other comparisons showed that doctors were more likely to treat underserved populations if they considered themselves highly spiritual, felt that their religious beliefs influenced their medical practice, or said they were raised in a family that encouraged service to the poor.

Women were also more likely to treat underserved populations than men, and differences were also seen among medical specialties, with psychiatrists and pediatricians showing the highest rate and medical specialists such as neurologists the lowest.

But the lack of a difference among those who reported they regularly attend religious services or who consider religion a driving force in their life suggested a disconnect to researchers.

"I think it challenges the religious communities to think about whether they're helping physicians make the connection between what religion teaches and how they practice medicine," said Dr. Farr Curlin, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and lead author on the study, which the Annals of Family Medicine publishes Tuesday.

But Dr. Gene Rudd, senior vice president of the Christian Medical Association, criticized the study's categorization of people's beliefs according to a small number of survey questions.

"I would rather have seen some kind of continuum of spiritu al commitment," said. "The data in the article suggests that highly religious and spiritually committed doctors do take care of the poor more."

Curlin said the questions were intended to measure "intrinsic religiosity," which he defined as the "extent to which an individual sees religion as a central motivation or organizing principle in their life."

He estimated that approximately 20 percent of respondents considered themselves spiritual but not religious.

"There is no objective definition or measure that anyone would agree on as a sign of being spiritual," said Curlin. "What I think goes into the idea of spirituality for many people is a sense of connection to something transcendent."

Overall, 26 percent of respondents said they practiced primarily with underserved patients, which Curlin said he found reassuring.

"The glass-half-full interpretation is that a substantial minority of physicians across all these groups, most particularly those who are not religious at all, are caring for the poor," said Curlin. "Not being religious clearly doesn't mean that people don't care about underserved patients."

Richard Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and author of "Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine," agreed.

According to Sloan, the result supports the view of writers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins who argue that an atheist can be an extremely moral and ethical person despite not having a religious affiliation.

"This provides evidence of that claim," said Sloan. "That's an important finding."

Curlin previously used data from the same survey to find that the medical community showed high rates of religious belief, and that doctors who are more religious were less likely to present medical options that they considered objectionable, such as abortion and birth control for teenagers.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 07:40 am
Doctors are not monks. They need to make a living, like everyone else. I don't think that it is fair to put medicine in the same category of "calling" as a nun, monk or priest. Just because a person is religious, does not mean that he/she is obliged to serve the poor. A person is happiest, and enjoys his work more, when he works in the milieu where he is most comfortable and fulfilled.

Rich people are as entitled to medical care as poor folks!
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 08:26 am
Phoenix32890 wrote:
Doctors are not monks. They need to make a living, like everyone else. I don't think that it is fair to put medicine in the same category of "calling" as a nun, monk or priest. Just because a person is religious, does not mean that he/she is obliged to serve the poor. A person is happiest, and enjoys his work more, when he works in the milieu where he is most comfortable and fulfilled.

Rich people are as entitled to medical care as poor folks!


That wasn't disputed, I think, neither that doctors have to be monks etc or don't help the rich.

This survey just says that non-religious doctors treat underserved patients as likely as religious doctors do.
(And that's something I never had had questioned because I think it be the reality.)
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 09:10 am
Walter- I agree that the reality is that you don't have to be religious to be charitable. I think that there is a misperception that religious people are somehow more empathic, more caring, and more generous when it comes to the disadvantaged.

In fact, I have seen examples of the exact opposite. I knew a man who ran a bunch of homes for the mentally ill. He was ultra-religious. The homes were rat holes. In fact, many of these places were run by very religious people.

I worked for an organization that provided services for the people who lived in these terrible places. My boss once chastised the home owner, and told him that it was a shame that such a religious person could be such a dog when it came to treating people. He told her that his dealings with man and his dealings with god had nothing to do with each other. Evil or Very Mad
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