The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story today on how patients' faith can influence their medical decisions. We've all heard of patients who have refused medical treatment based on religious principles, but perhaps less well-known is the fact that very religious patients often request more aggressive treatment than is medically warranted. (The thought-process may be that they're letting God down if they don't do all they can to fight to stay alive.) Writer Karen Kaplan points to a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association where "researchers found that terminally ill cancer patients were nearly three times more likely to go on breathing machines or receive other invasive treatments if religion was an important part of their decision-making process."
Kaplan goes on to say the medical community "is now grappling with the best way to bring God into the doctor-patient relationship without subjecting patients to needless suffering before they die." And Stanford's David Magnus, PhD, provides some insight, suggesting that doctors need to talk with their patients about their religious views and make sure that they understand that "refusing treatment is not the same as choosing death."