Physicians’ religiosity and attitudes towards patients
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Department of Ethics and Human Philosophy, Medical University of Lublin, Poland
Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Department of Bioethics, Anthropology and General Theory of Medicine, College of Management and Public Administration, Zamość, Poland
Jakub Pawlikowski   

Department of Ethics and Human Philosophy, Medical University of Lublin, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2012;19(3):503–507
Many religions underline the value of merciful acts, especially the care of the sick. The aim of the survey was to verify the hypothesis that a higher religiosity correlates with a more desirable ethical attitude towards patients.

An anonymous questionnaire consisting of standardized tools: Scale of Attitudes towards the Patient (SAtP) (four dimensions: respect for autonomy, altruism, empathy and holistic approach to a patient), the Scale of Religious Attitudes (SReAt) evaluating the religiosity, and some questions related to the role of religious beliefs in respondents’ professional lives. The research was carried out on a group of 528 Polish physicians, 324 of whom returned the questionnaire (return = 61%); 51% women, 49% men; average work experience: 17.03 years; 93% Catholics.

Religiosity correlates positively with altruism (r=0.12; p<0.05), holistic approach (r=0.18; p<0.01) and empathy (r=0.20; p<0.01), but not with respect for autonomy. For the majority of physicians, religious faith is an important supportive factor, especially in making difficult decisions. Surgeons are less religious (M=5.32; SD=1.06) than non-surgeons (M=5.61; SD=0.93); (t= -2.59, p<0.05).

Physicians’ religiosity is an essential factor shaping their attitude towards patients. The majority of physicians declared that their religious faith influences their professional decisions, especially in difficult situations. The religiosity variable explains physicians’ moral attitude better than the denomination (religious affiliation) variable. Physician-patient relation frameworks should take into account not only patients’ but also physicians’ cultural and religious beliefs.

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