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Are health care providers ethically obligated to inform a patient about treatments or procedures that they object to on moral or religious grounds? According to a survey of 1,144 American physicians, most (86%) believe they are. Most (71%) also believe that they're obligated to refer the patient to another provider who doesn't object to a requested procedure. But a substantial minority doesn't agree with these positions or is undecided.


Sixty-three percent of respondents believe it's ethical for a physician to explain his moral objections regarding a procedure to patients. Examples of potentially objectionable procedures presented in the survey include terminal sedation, abortion for failed contraception, and prescription of birth control to teens without parental consent.


Researchers found that female physicians were more likely to support full disclosure of options than male physicians and that physicians describing themselves as religious were less likely to endorse full disclosure.


Researchers say patients who want complete information may need to "inquire proactively to determine whether their physicians would accommodate such requests."




Curlin FA, et al., Religion, conscience, and controversial clinical practices, The New England Journal of Medicine, February 8, 2007.