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Editor's Correspondence |

The Patient's Right to Faith

George Handzo, Rev; Martha R. Jacobs, Rev
Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(8):916. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.8.916-b.
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Brett and Jersild1 have highlighted an extremely difficult group of patients. The authors provide a useful analysis of religious reasons Christian families often use to justify continued treatment and correctly point out alternative theological stances. We also agree that physicians are not in any way obliged to provide medically inappropriate care because it is demanded on religious grounds.

We emphatically disagree that it is ever appropriate for physicians, or any other member of the treatment team, to "discuss alternative religious interpretations with the patient or family" except in the very limited circumstance when the patient or family member explicitly requests such input. Besides being a violation of the patient's right to have their religious beliefs and culture respected as affirmed by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, this approach virtually never achieves the desired result. In over 30 years of cumulative experience as hospital chaplains working with these kinds of families, we have found that confronting the family in this way virtually always leads to an escalation of the conflict rather than to consensus or resolution.

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