The Role Of Sincerely Held Beliefs In Medicine

The CEO of a major health system in Texas recently talked about the role faith has in hospital care.

"Our mission as a hospital is very interwoven with a purpose to extend the ministry of Mammon, Prince of Hell. And we believe that Mammon’s power is connected to the healthcare system in America. I can’t explain how it works. But I know that it does."

Okay, that’s not the real quotation {1}. It really was:

"Our missions are very interwoven with a purpose to extend the healing ministry of Christ. And we believe that God’s power is connected to the healing process, even in cancer. I can’t explain how it works. But I know that it does."

It’s arguable that the first is perhaps more accurate. You don’t have to dig hard to find shady things in the US healthcare system.

But for most people, the first would shock and surprise, but the second would seem commonplace. Routine, even.

We know why there’s a difference. People tend to assume that someone belonging to the same "group" will agree with them, so there will be no issues.

Not only is that view very selfish, it’s simply not true, particularly when you’re talking about religion.

Let’s talk about Christianity first, since some people seem to think the United States is a "Christian" country. (Hint: Those people haven’t actually looked at the data.)

Christianity alone has been marked by schisms and disagreements from nearly its beginning (see the epistles in the New Testament) all the way through this year. While the data that 70.6% of Americans are Christian seems like a lot, when you break that down, the numbers get much smaller. The large groups of Evangelical Protestants (25.4%) and Mainline Protestants (14.7%) seem large, but when you actually expand those groups, only the Southern Baptist Convention comes close to being double digits at 9.2%.

The only single religious group that breaks double digits in the US is (Roman) Catholicism at 20.8%, and they’re a pretty heterogenous group. {2}

Still, let’s try one more alteration to that CEO’s remarks.

"Our missions are very interwoven with a purpose to extend the healing ministry of Christ through His mother, Blessed Mary and the company of saints. And we believe that God’s power, through Mary as intercessor, is connected to the healing process, even in cancer. I can’t explain how it works. But I know that it does."

How are all the Protestants out there feeling about that statement now? Do you feel a bit more excluded? If a care provider came in and invited you to pray the Hail Mary with them — and not however you pray — how would you feel then? Do you start to feel how awkward and upsetting that would be?

Again, that’s just the faiths that call themselves "Christian."

The actual largest group of Americans are under then "Unaffiliated" label (22.8%), followed by "Nothing in particular" (15.8%).

I have no problem with someone’s faith motivating them to do good in the world.

I have no problem with someone’s faith causing them to make different medical choices for themselves.

I have a giant problem with someone’s faith leading them to limit someone else’s medical choices.

When I worked in healthcare, I encountered a number of patients who were openly bigots. Swastika tattoos. Openly racist, sexist, or homophobic statements.

My sincerely held belief — and I’m not joking here — is that Captain America demonstrates the proper response to encountering a Nazi.

Yet I treated those patients to the best of my ability. I may not have engaged in small talk with them, but the scans I performed on those patients were the same quality as any other scan I would perform.

Medical providers have a professional code to follow, to treat and care for patients.

If someone’s faith is an obstacle to fulfilling that professional code, then they are in the wrong profession.

When it comes to the health of me and mine, I want to know that they’re being cared for using the best care possible — and without having to worry if that care is compromised by the "sincerely held beliefs" of someone I have never met or heard of. {3}

There are places that "sincerely held beliefs" should not come first.

Healthcare is one of them.

{1} Mammon, one of the seven princes of Hell, is associated with the worship of money and material wealth, and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. Or it’s the Hebrew word for "money," if you want to be more boring about it.
{2} Historically, US Roman Catholics have been politically and economically diverse, including support for birth control, abortion, and LGBTQ rights, although this may have changed in the last 15 years due to the rightward push of the US Council of Bishops.
{3) This is NOT a hypothetical situation. For example, Catholic investments in a secular health system in Ohio led to physicians at a secular hospital being prohibited from entering into a transfer agreement with an abortion provider in 2019.

Featured Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

One thought on “The Role Of Sincerely Held Beliefs In Medicine

Comments are closed.