Health & God

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So some doctors and health staff want to be allowed to include faith as part of their treatment of patients in NHS hospitals.  Currently the Dept of Health guidelines say talking about faith (beyond praying for someone) could be misconstrued as prosletysing and be offensive.  Certain Atheist organisations argue it should not be allowed, although they recognise that if a patient asks for it, staff should be allowed to engage in faith based discussions.

I am an atheist, I find organised religion to be offensive to my worldview, but I do not have a problem with any individual who holds a faith…so long as they do not expect me, or anyone else to do as they do, or believe in what they believe in (since they refuse to consider my way of thinking!), and they refrain from causing harm through the pursuit of their faith.

But doctors and nurses offering faith alongside medicine…I feel I should be bothered, but in reality I am not.  I trust these highly trained individuals to know when and what is appropriate.  So long as they understand that ‘no means no’ when a patient or their family refuses any such faith-approach, I don’t see the problem.  Any staff member caught prosletysing would very quickly be reprimanded, and if it continued would find themselves disciplined.

Hospitals in the UK are very depressing and isolating places to be as a patient…and while the staff undoubtedly do their best to make us better again, there are many times when as the patient you feel left out of the human-equation, and become merely a problem for the staff to deal with.  If allowing those staff members who have faith to make it a small part of the way they work, I believe it could do wonders for the patient experience.

However, these same staff must be wary not to take offence if their faith is rebuked, if a patient is rude or demeaning to the approach…being a patient can leave you vulnerable and scared, and for many the thought of a person of faith invading your space and mind at such a time will be repellant.

One other thought occurs…don’t hospitals have chaplains and rabbis and immams on call to offer spiritual advice?  Would it not be better for the staff to defer to a more senior authority figure (since religion is all about authority and power and heirarchies)? And what if a patient is a pagan, a Satanist, or any other so-called ‘fringe’ religion?  Who deals with their spiritual needs?  How would a Christian doctor deal with a Satanist patient who asks for help and guidance?

I think I worry more for the staff and how bringing religion into their workplace may impact on them and their lives than I do the patients.

Or maybe keeping religion out of everything except churches, mosques and temples is the safest route?  It’s a tough question and one the Dept of Health will have to grapple with, and try to treat with a modicum of maturity and candour.  What worries me the most is that in this one issue we have healthcare, religion, freedom of speech, freedom to worship AND politics rolled into one…it could be a disaster in the making!

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