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Religious beliefs “may influence doctors’ end-of-life care”

26 August 2010

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Doctors with religious beliefs are less likely to take decisions that speed up the death of seriously ill patients, according to new research.

A poll of nearly 4,000 doctors in Britain found that those with a deep faith were less likely to talk about treatments which hastened death.

The study polled doctors from a range of specialties including those relating to end-of-life care.

This included doctors working in neurology, elderly care, palliative end-of-life care, hospital specialties, intensive care and general practice.

Doctors were asked about their religious views and their care of the last patient who died.

The findings showed that the ethnicity of the doctor was largely unrelated to whether they took controversial decisions.

But doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than any other group to have given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken a decision they knew could or would end life.

Care services minister, Paul Burstow, said: “We need to ensure that the care people receive at the end of life is compassionate, appropriate and gives people choices in where they die and how they are cared for.

“Identifying people approaching the end of life and planning properly with them for their care is an essential part of this.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Journal of Medical Ethics