Religion and Health Care
Religion is often a major factor in the provision of health care to a patient. All major religions imply cherishing one’s health and making efforts to prevent harming the life that is given to human beings. However, different medical approaches feature different procedures that not all religions may find appropriate. For example, it is a known fact that, for the followers of some religions, blood transfusions are unacceptable, even if it is recognized that there is a threat to a patient’s life in case the procedure is not administered (Jeffreys, 2016).
A profound analysis shows that the issue is the collision between medicine as a science, i.e. a number of confirmed, evidence-based practices that are aimed at improving health outcomes for a patient, and faith, i.e. a set of beliefs to which a patient may be strongly devoted. A conflict occurs when a person with strong religious beliefs is accepted by a medical facility that practices conventional methods of delivering health care.
Some of the components of the proposed treatment may be found unacceptable by a patient, while health care providers are convinced that this treatment is wise and relevant. This situation poses an ethical dilemma for nursing care providers, and their main concern is how to convince the patient that the proposed treatment is optimal in terms of addressing the health problems the patient has.
To address the identified ethical dilemma, it is important to explore the area of nursing ethics. There are four major principles recognized in the ethical provision of care to patients: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. These are principles and not rules, i.e. in some situations, considerations associated with one of the principles may conflict with considerations associated with another or several other principles (Butts & Rich, 2012).
In the explored case of patients’ perception that certain medical procedures or other components of treatment are unacceptable from the point of view of the patients’ religion, two principles can be seen as conflicting: the principle of autonomy suggests that a patient is fully entitled to make decisions about his or her treatment, i.e. any procedures that are part of treatment can be rejected by the patient, while the principle of non-maleficence suggests that a nurse cannot make a decision that will result in harming the health of a patient, i.e. a health care provider cannot refuse to use certain medical procedures or medications if he or she is convinced that, without those procedures or medications, the patient’s health will be harmed.
In nursing practice, facing ethical dilemmas means choosing which principle is more important for ensuring better health outcomes for a patient. In the presented case, it is more important than patients’ lives are not under threat. However, it should not be overlooked that patients’ religious beliefs should be recognized, understood by nursing care providers, and respected. The proposed solution is to advise a patient whose religious beliefs do not allow receiving prescribed medical procedures on the possible negative effects of not receiving them. This should be done as part of communication between a nurse and a patient in a delicate manner so that the patient does not perceive the advice as disrespectful.
To accomplish this, the nurse should first talk to the patient and understand why certain components of treatment are not acceptable to him or her; then, upon learning more about the patient’s religion, the nurse should try to convince the patient that saving his or her life is the most important direction in the teachings to which the patient is devoted, and the proposed treatment is exactly what will contribute to improving the patient’s health.
Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (2012). Nursing ethics: Across the curriculum and into practice (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
Jeffreys, M. R. (2016). Teaching cultural competence in nursing and health care: Inquiry, action, and innovation (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.