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Are ‘Healthcare Choices Dictated by Religious Doctrines’ the Future of Medicine?

A recent study by analysts at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus revealed that a large majority of people did not want their healthcare to be curtailed by religious dogma.

The study was led by Maryam Guiahi, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, to see whether people preferred the religious association of the hospital they’re treated in over complete healthcare.

From the Americans surveyed, only a minor group said that the religious association of the treatment center would affect their decision as compared to the majority who said proper healthcare was of utmost importance and that they do not want their decisions to be curtailed by religious doctrines.

Also read: Increasing Healthcare Prices May Lead To a Major Public Health Crisis in US Soon

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study surveyed 1446 individuals over the age of 18 and found that only 6.4% would prefer the hospital affiliated with their religion. 71.4% believed that they did not want their healthcare to be compromised, either due to religious ideas or otherwise. This was the general trend, especially among women who had been denied facilities lie tubal ligations, birth control/contraception and in vitro fertilization by Catholic hospitals.

Not only women, but transgenders, gays and lesbians also share the same viewpoint due to extreme bias against them by religious institutions, compromising the level of healthcare they receive.

Guiahi said, “People may expect restrictions on abortions, but they are surprised to find common services like birth control are also restricted. They don’t realize that they may not be getting care based on science but rather the care they get is based on religious dogma and doctrine.”

The number of healthcare institutions with religious affiliations, particularly catholic hospitals, has been increasing in recent years, especially in the Midwest. The network has been expanding, with many merging to form one expansive healthcare center.

In 15 years, from 2001 – 2016, the catholic care hubs count rose by 22%. As of 2016, 18.5% of the countrywide hospitals were associated with a religion:

  • 9.4% Catholic non-profit hospitals
  • 5.1% Catholic
  • 4% other religions

Furthermore, from the top 25 healthcare institutions, 10 were Catholic with almost 50% situated in the Midwest.

The main difference between religiously affiliated hospitals and the general hospitals is that in the former, the staff, doctors and nurses have to follow ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services’, that restricts the facilities available to the patient if they go against the religious doctrines. This is especially the case with abortions, euthanasia or birth control.

Out of the 1446 adults surveyed, only 13.4% – 193 individuals, favored a religious hospital. 74.9% of females and 68.1% of male subjects believed that their healthcare had a higher priority than religious ethics of a hospital.

The lead author of the study talked about the subject saying, “That suggests a general lack of understanding specific to the notion of `institutional conscience’ and may cause conflicts in the delivery of care”. She further added, “Given the growth in ownership by religious entities in the U.S. and increasing attention to conscientious objections. Our findings point to a need for advocacy and legislation that effectively balance protections for religious institutions with protections for patients.”

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Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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