Sunday, 13 May 2012
Today was the first time I watched the BBC's The Big Questions although I've often caught up with it on Twitter. I don't have the stomach for disagreeable confrontation or debate, I just don't enjoy it and tend to think that considered debate is something that lends itself better to written discussions than vocal to-ing and fro-ing. Anyway...
One of the topics today was about a doctor who had raised the issue of religious faith during a consultation with a patient. This makes me feel very uneasy and what made me feel even less easy was the attitude of the doctor and some others who agreed with him. While I don't doubt that religious faith is very important to a lot of people - and I can see how that importance might increase during times of health concerns - with the best will in the world bringing religion into the consulting room is surely at odds with appropriate care behaviour.
If my doctor started bringing religion in I'd feel a bit anxious. And remember I'm already feeling a bit anxious as I'm on someone else's turf and perhaps feeling additionally anxious about some new diagnosis or treatment. I would worry that the person in front of me, who let's face it has the keys to the prescription pad, has an ideology that I don't share - and might judge me for not sharing it. Even if they're lovely and non-judgemental I would still have to respond to their suggestion or question and make it clear that I'm not interested - surely it's better for the doctor to leave well alone and not put me in that position. I can't believe that people (patients) who follow a religion don't know how to find someone from that religion to talk to.
The idea that any interaction provides an evangelical with an opportunity to evangelise is perhaps merely annoying where both parties are on equal footing. I take a sporting attitude to irritants knocking on my door to tell me about their beliefs, chasing them off the property with firm words or a raised tea-towel as necessary. But when I'm in a doctor's surgery (it's not my surgery, it's theirs) it's quite different. Similarly I would be uncomfortable if my boss started talking evangelically (I'd be less bothered if it was a co-worker on the same level, still annoyed but I'd feel I was more able to ask them to shush).
One argument that sometimes comes up (that I don't have much time for) is the idea that a doctor that believes in sky gods might be less able to handle evidence-based medicine, given that they believe something for which there isn't much evidence. I might be wrong but I think people can compartmentalise things fine in their own minds and holding contradicting notions in that way wouldn't bother me in the slightest. My main concern is that by creeping me out by talking about religion they've created a barrier between us that never needed to be there.