Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An Apple a Day or Pray

Call us crazy, but when we at Holier Than Thou visit the doctor, the last thing we want to do is discuss religion. Anxiously wearing a paper dress while sitting on an examination table puts us in a decidedly stoic mood and definitely not chatty about issues like the existence of God and spirituality. But perhaps we’ll soon be in the minority.

According to a recent survey of 2,000 doctors by the University of Chicago there is an emerging view that in order to treat the whole patient, doctors should address religion and spirituality.

So, read the statements below and match them with the percentages.

1. This percentage of doctors say it’s always or usually appropriate to inquire about a patient’s religion or spirituality.
2. This percentage of doctors say it’s okay to discuss religion or spirituality when a patient brings it up.
3. This percentage of doctors say they often or always pray with patients.
4. This percentage of doctors say they sometimes pray with patients.
5. This percentage of doctors say they rarely pray or never pray with patients.

A. 4 percent
B. 15 percent
C. 91 percent
D. 81 percent
E. 55 percent


1. E: 55 percent
2. C: 91 percent
3. A: 4 percent
4. B: 15 percent
5. D: 81 percent

In response to the survey, Richard Sloan of Columbia University Medical Center and colleagues have written in the New England Journal of Medicine that doctors are not trained to give spiritual counseling. That job, he argues, is better left to health care chaplains. With typical office visits lasting fewer than 20 minutes, spending time on religion can result in medical concerns getting short shrift, Sloan said. Moreover, bringing up religion can violate patients’ privacy.

“Many patients regard their religious faith as even more personal and private than their health,” Sloan says.


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