Of Two Minds

Why in the world does my hospital/doctor need to know what my religious beliefs are?
I was running through this check-in form where they asked the usual questions like, what did your parents die of, etc. But then I got to the social section where they asked my education then my religion. WTF?! I guess I should have stopped even at the education but I’m so used to filling that out.

Seriously WTF?!

I did write “REALLY?!!” as my response to the question though.

Comments

  1. #1 sng
    March 4, 2009

    Because the vast majority of people filling out those forms have one and are likely to have some very specific things they would like to see happen in a worst case scenario based on those beliefs. It’s fairly understandable.

  2. #2 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 4, 2009

    A few possible reasons, all highly speculative:

    1) Certain religions are more likely to correspond to certain diseases, especially ones associated with diet.

    2) Related to 1, some religions have dietary restrictions that hospitals try to accommodate. This helps give them data on that. Related to that, some religions have other restrictions that it is good for the hospitals to know about. For example, some hospitals try to put their Orthodox Jewish patients on low leveled floors if possible so as to make their visitors not have to climb many floors on the Sabbath.

    3) Some religions have objections to certain types of treatment and it is useful to know in advance if someone might be from such a religion.

    4) Many religious groups visit the sick when possible. Some of those groups visit the sick of their own religion especially or visit them first. It is useful thus to have lists of where people from each religion are coming from. Related to this, if a hospital notices that they are getting more members from a specific religion, they may want to get clergy in that religion to show up every now and again.

    5) Demographic data is interesting. Religion is a classic variable to look at when trying to get large scale data. There might be interesting patterns in there.

    If one doesn’t have a religion it is easy to put down “none” or “atheist” or “agnostic” or if one is being more snarky “None (I’m an atheist)”.

  3. #3 Steve Burnap
    March 4, 2009

    If your Catholic, they need to know so they can call the priest if you are at death’s door.

  4. #4 Richard Carter, FCD
    March 4, 2009

    I don’t know about in the USA, but, if it happened in the UK, I’d assume it was for statistical purposes, to show that people from different religious backgrounds were not being discriminated against.

  5. #5 The Science Pundit
    March 4, 2009

    Certain religions are more likely to correspond to certain diseases

    Such as terminally persistent cognitive dissonance?

  6. #6 Victor Ganata
    March 4, 2009

    It can be helpful if a patient’s religious beliefs preclude certain interventions. (The common one is Jehovah’s Witnesses with regards to blood transfusions.) And, it’s probably the same reason why they’ll ask you whether or not you want CPR done, whether you want to be defibrillated, or whether you want to be attached to a mechanical ventilator, because you never know.

  7. #7 bsci
    March 4, 2009

    It’s fairly obvious, but not quite as dire as #3. Many hospitals have chaplains on staff to help and support patients (they provide and are specially trained in counseling in addition to administering last rites).
    If you request one or if they make regular rounds, they can try to assign one who is an appropriate fit.

  8. #8 Breanne Potter
    March 4, 2009

    I understand them asking that question on in-take forms so that services can be provided in worst case scenarios, however one time I was in the hospital on a Sunday and a lady (who was wearing religious attire) walked in and asked my religious affiliation. I said Christian and she said okay and walked out. I thought to myself- did i answer that incorrectly What would have happened if I said Catholic, Jewish, etc? It’s bothered me to this day, and that was 7 years ago!

  9. #9 jay
    March 4, 2009

    I don’t know about in the USA, but, if it happened in the UK, I’d assume it was for statistical purposes, to show that people from different religious backgrounds were not being discriminated against.

    While I accept gathering information for legitimate purposes, I would find it damned annoying to provide information to satisfy some bureaucrat’s spreadsheet. I certainly would be strongly inclined to not provide that.

  10. #10 Warren
    March 4, 2009

    Were you serious in asking that question?

    Given the countless millions of people in the US who have religious beliefs, not even a truly obtuse atheist (such as myself) would wonder about something like this.

  11. #11 humorix
    March 4, 2009

    Because the atheists (normal people) cross the world first of all.
    Those or those who have one religions have to call the interpreters theologians who will ask for a store of bill at the time of vacation of the personnel of the hospital and the time of reception

  12. #12 Tony P
    March 4, 2009

    My favorite is the objective with a new M.D. The question in particular is “Any guns in the house?”

    Of course this question followed after delving into my sexuality.

    When the doc asked that gun question I looked at him with a “WTF” expression. Asked him to go back to the sexuality questions and that is when he looked sheepish. The ostensible purpose of the guns question is kids in the house. Ooops!

  13. #13 csrster
    March 5, 2009

    Oooh, bad memories of standing at check-in at Boulder Community Hospital at 4a.m., suffering from agonising sciatic-pain and trying to decide how to answer that question. I think I answered “none”.

  14. #14 The Yellow Emperor
    March 5, 2009

    God help anyone who writes down “Christian Scientist.”

    No, seriously. That’s the only way they’ll get any better.

    *rimshot*

  15. #15 Rogue Epidemiologist
    March 5, 2009

    I review a lot of medical records, and I only see the religion question on records from church-affiliated hospitals. Catholics and SDAs particularly.

    hey, if you’re Jewish or Muslim, they might want to know not to use pig-insulin on you if you’re going into diabetic keto-acidosis.

    Really, of all the invasive things they have to ask you, is this one worth getting your knickers in a knot over???

  16. #16 Charlie (Colorado)
    March 6, 2009

    It worries me a little that you might be serious.

    As is multiply-mentioned above, it’s so, if you die, they know who to call first: priest, rabbi, or undertaker?

  17. #17 Tatarize
    March 6, 2009

    Silly people. There’s a little known effect called Juspulleoutomyass which has an odd presentation: Medicine doesn’t work on Episcopalians. I know, strange, right?

  18. #18 Anonymous
    March 7, 2009

    Hi,
    There are certain formalities which they have to perform at their level.

    Austin

    Drug Intervention

  19. #19 viveka
    March 7, 2009

    when they ask “sex”
    just say yes
    when they ask “religion?” you could say “that would be an ecclesiastical matter”
    or, “tell you later”, or, “send everyone at once, please”

  20. #20 pest control
    March 7, 2009

    when they ask “sex”
    just say “yes, two times in a day” =))

  21. #21 Dr X
    March 10, 2009

    Many hospitals have chaplains on staff to help and support patients (they provide and are specially trained in counseling in addition to administering last rites). If you request one or if they make regular rounds, they can try to assign one who is an appropriate fit.

    This is the correct answer to the question. Most hospitals have chaplains’ offices. Lists are created and the offices try to assign patients based on best denominational fit. The chaplains visit patients to see if they can offer assistance, counsel, prayers, sacraments and, sometimes, last rites. They don’t force prayers, counsel or last rites on anyone, but they make it known that they are available. Many patients appreciate this.

    That is why religious affiliation is requested at intake.

  22. #22 Ole Blue
    March 14, 2009

    In case you die they want to know who to call for your help to the …Cough…other life.

    The military does the same thing.

    You can always put other or space aliens.

  23. #23 CristobalDeLicia
    March 28, 2009

    I would be tempted to put “Jedi,” but I’d be too frightened if a chaplain actually showed up!

  24. #24 Erik
    June 29, 2009

    Perhaps it is to stop people of religions that are at odds with each other from being put in the same room. Nothing interferes with post surgical recovery like a religious war :)

  25. #25 Marcia
    July 6, 2009

    I have always assumed so that they can provide the appropriate services for you if you are near death.

    I doubt if it has to do with dietary restrictions, as hospitals will usually ask you about dietary restrictions separately. (You can have health-related dietary restrictions as well as religious-related one.)

    In additon, not all people who identify as Jewish share the same dietary restrictions. It depends upon how how they choose to follow their religion. I would assume the same goes for members of other religions that have dietary restrictions.

  26. #26 catherine
    November 17, 2009

    Well, some people might be rastafarians and sometimes they smoke marijuana. That could potentially be a medical issue. The possibilities seem endlessly legit

  27. #27 Christian H
    December 4, 2009

    The chaplain answer is the one I’d always heard, though I can see how things like DNR or no blood transfusions would contribute.

    It is certainly not limited to religion-run hospitals, and I imagine most people in North America either want that question on the list or don’t care one way or another. In the end it prevents inadvertent conflicts or invasions of privacy.