Posted by: Tony Carson | 4 September, 2007

On doctors’ referrals to priests

What would your reaction be if your doctor referred you to a minister or priest for help?

Exactly. But, apparently, many do. In fact, according to a US study, doctors who believe are more likely to refer their patients to a pastor than a psychiatrist.

Further, past studies have indicated that the vast majority of US doctors who believe are willing to discuss religion with their patients and half of these are willing to initiate the discussion. In fact in a study:

• More than 90% of the doctors said it is appropriate to discuss religious or spiritual issues when a patient brings them up.

• Three in four encourage patients’ religious beliefs and practices.

• Half said they inquire, occasionally or more often, about a patient’s faith.

• Only 10% routinely mention their own faith.

• Fewer than one in three endorses praying with patients.

The notion that a doctor will use his own faith as a means of therapy might strike some as a form of mal-practise. That is is as common as these statistics and articles indicate is flat out scary.

Doctors, one could argue, are a form of scientist and science, almost anathema to religions, is inherent in humanism.

Give me science when I’m on the doctors’ table or the psychiatrists’ couch; they can give me a minister/priest when I’m on my deathbed.



  1. For those patients who believe the spiritual aspect of their life can be every bit as important as the physical aspects. In other words spiritual care can be every bit as important as the medication prescribed by a doctor in their recovery. Furthermore, those who have a religious belief would respond better to psychiatric care or psychotherapy which has their belief systems built into it. As such, these services should be available within the health system to ensure the best possible treatment for patients.

    However, where patients do not have any religious or spiritual beliefs then it is extremely inappropriate for a doctor to be referring them to a minister/priest.

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