Religious Beliefs

As doctors we should not allow our personal beliefs to affect our professional relationship with patients. These personal beliefs include views on a patient's age, colour, culture, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, lifestyle, marital or parental status, race, religion or beliefs, sex, sexual orientation or social or economic status.2

There are a number of examples where a doctor's personal beliefs may interfere with appropriate patient care:

  • Patient care pre- and post-termination
  • If a woman requires medical care before or after a termination of pregnancy, a doctor is required (both legally and ethically) to provide it, regardless of his/her beliefs 4.
  • The completion of cremation forms
  • A doctor must sign a cremation form if required to do so.
  • Failing to sign the form may result in a post-mortem examination of the deceased and subsequent delay and unnecessary distress to the family.
    • Wearing clothing or other insignia of religious affiliation.
  • Although no formal guidelines exist on the above, it should be noted that doing so may result in difficulty establishing rapport and gaining the trust of the patient - thus creating a potential barrier to effective communication.3

Patient's personal beliefs may also affect care, the most obvious manifestation of this is seen with religious beliefs.

Essential treatment can be refused (conscientious objection); Jehovahs' Witnesses and the use of blood and blood products or non-essential intervention requested; Jewish and Islamic faiths seeking male circumcisions.

  • GMC: Duties of a Doctor
  • GMC: Valuing Diversity - Guidance for Doctors
  • GMC: Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice (March 2008)
  • Janaway v Salford Health Authority All England Law Rep 1988 Dec 1;[1988] 3:1079-84
  • GMC: Conflicts of Interest (September 2008)
  • Medical Act (1983)
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998)
  • Health Service Circular (1999/198)
  • GMC: Maintaining Boundaries - Guidance for Doctors (November 2006)
  • GMC: Raising Concerns about Patient Safety - Guidance for Doctors (November 2006)
  • Kerr/Haslam Inquiry (2005)