Background Religious (R) and spiritual (S) beliefs often affect patients' health care decisions, particularly with regard to care at the end of life. Furthermore, patients desire more R/S involvement by the medical community; however, physicians typically do not incorporate R/S assessment into medical interviews with patients. The effects of physicians' R/S beliefs on willingness to participate in controversial clinical practices such as medical abortions and physician-assisted suicide has been evaluated, but how a physician's R/S beliefs may affect other medical decision-making is unclear.
Methods Using SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool, we surveyed 1972 members of the International Gynecologic Oncologists Society and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists to determine the R/S characteristics of gynecologic oncologists and whether their R/S beliefs affected their clinical practice. Demographics, religiosity, and spirituality data were collected. Physicians were also asked to evaluate 5 complex case scenarios.
Results Two hundred seventy-three (14%) physicians responded. Sixty percent "agreed" or "somewhat agreed" that their R/S beliefs were a source of personal comfort. Forty-five percent reported that their R/S beliefs ("sometimes," "frequently," or "always") play a role in the medical options they offered patients, but only 34% "frequently" or "always" take a R/S history from patients. Interestingly, 90% reported that they consider patients' R/S beliefs when discussing end-of-life issues. Responses to case scenarios largely differed by years of experience, although age and R/S beliefs also had influence.
Conclusions Our results suggest that gynecologic oncologists' R/S beliefs may affect patient care but that most physicians fail to take an R/S history from their patients. More work needs to be done to evaluate possible barriers that prevent physicians from taking a spiritual history and engaging in discussions over these matters with patients.
- Gynecologic oncology
- Spiritual history
- Medical decision making
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The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
This research is supported in part by the National Institutes of Health through MD Anderson Cancer Center Support Grant CA016672.