A month ago, a study was released that showed “Atheist and agnostic doctors are as likely to provide care for the poor as religious physicians.”
Now, a study shows that “the least religious of all medical specialties is psychiatry“:
Among psychiatrists who have a religion, more than twice as many are Jewish and far fewer are Protestant or Catholic, the two most common religions among physicians overall.
The study, published in the September 2007 issue of Psychiatric Services, also found that religious physicians, especially Protestants, are less likely to refer patients to psychiatrists, and more likely to send them to members of the clergy or to a religious counselor.
That’s disturbing. If you have a serious mental illness, why is anyone sending you to non-expert clergy members? What do they have to offer that will fix the problems? Prayer won’t do it. And usually, talking through a problem by itself won’t do it in these cases.
It’s one thing to see clergy if you’re going through a rough patch or need to talk to someone. But if you’re hearing voices in your head, the last person you need to talk to is someone else who hears voices in his head.
Joel at Pax Nortona has this to say:
I have known people to give up their meds on the advice of a faith healer and consequently end up arrested after embarking on wild sprees. The problem is that many patients are looking for magical answers and when they are offered reality-based somatic therapy (replete with side effects) they balk.
What is the reasoning for the non-religious psychiatrists?
“Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialize in this field,” said study author Farr Curlin, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “It also seems to discourage religious physicians from referring their patients to psychiatrists.”
“Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions,” Curlin said. That may be especially true in psychiatry, where communication is so essential. The mismatch in religious beliefs between psychiatrists and patients may make it difficult for patients suffering from emotional or personal problems to find physicians who share their fundamental belief systems.
I feel like there’s a God Delusion joke to be made here, but I just can’t think of it…
[tags]atheist, atheism, medicine, study, University of Chicago[/tags]