Christianity and Medicine

Today I had to pre-register at a new medical facility for some tests.  No big deal, I thought. They would ask for insurance information and we’d be finished.  But, that was not what happened. The employee of the doctor’s office asked for my religion.  When I mentioned that it would most likely be categorized as “other,” she did not believe me, and proceeded to name off a long list of religions.  In addition to “none” (which obviously fits into its own category), there were only two non-Christian choices: Buddhism and “other.” I’m well-versed in idiosyncratic and unconventional Christian denominations, but she listed Christian branches unknown to me. However, she did not list Judaism or Islam or any of the many other non-Christian religions. How could Judaism or Islam be missing?   How can a major medical provider in the US not realize those who live here practice a range of non-Christian religions? 

Sure, this state is firmly seated on the edge of the Midwest, but just driving down the street proves that followers of other religions live here.  Let me explain that a bit. There are numerous mosques, Muslim prayer buildings, and even a few private Islamic academies. There is a stable Jewish population. In addition to specialized social service organizations, Jewish charter schools are scattered throughout the region. In fact, one local Jewish synagogue has to offer tickets for reserved seating during the holidays. Within a short drive, there is a Gurdwara (Sikh religious building) supported by a healthy Sikh population.  Just up the road from that, a significant Hindu temple (surrounded by 32 landscaped acres) provides a busy schedule of events. In addition, at least two Krishna devotee groups function in the area. Since I’ve made my point, I won’t bore you by listing the variety of groups that gather for Neo-Pagan, American indigenous, African traditional religions, and other spiritual celebrations in the area (assuming I could remember all of them). 

Not only was I stymied by her inadequate list of religions but also by the question itself. So I asked her why she wanted to know my religion. She responded, “Some patients like to know the priest can bring communion if they require it.”  (I assumed that she meant in the case of the development of an emergency situation).  I responded that I was an “other,” just as I had previously stated. Rather than educate her about the varied religious communities, I decided to politely hang up. 

However, in light of the crazy news stories about medical providers refusing treatment to people they classify as “outsiders” or “sinners,” I have a few concerns. In addition, I am troubled about the assumptions they might make in the areas usually listed in a document such as a Living Will or Advanced Directive. Do I draft a legal document to clarify my expectations about medical treatment as it might be affected by their religious assumptions and insist they add to my file? Perhaps I was too honest. Should I ignore the entire topic and hope that I won’t get inferior treatment because I admitted to a belief in “other?” What do you think? 
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About Lillith ThreeFeathers

Lillith ThreeFeathers is a shamanic healer, author, medium, and priestess.
This entry was posted in Media Thoughts, Medicine & Health, Spirituality & Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Christianity and Medicine

  1. Mary says:

    Personally I would draft up the documents, have them notarized and placed in their files. At that point there can be no question as to what your wishes are. That being said would such documents in your file cause you to be targeted to not be given treatment since you may then be considered one of “those” people that they don’t wish to deal with.

    Besides, I would let them know my priestess would be coming by to take care of any religious requirements I might have!

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    • Mary, your comment succinctly explained my quandary. In a “perfect” world, medical professionals would not care about my religion. They would focus on the proper medical care. Thanks for your response.

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  2. Euphrates says:

    More fuel added to my current “How is the medical industry so ridiculously ignorant?” debacle…

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  3. Joy says:

    People that have lives of sameness just can’t seem to grasp anything that does not look or feel like their normal. The first time someone asked me the religion question I was confused. The second time I said Catholic because since I was raised Catholic I thought that when my ancestors greeted me it might make sense to them somehow. I also thought it might be fun to see if the Priest would show up because I am not a member of a Parrish and the Priests would probably not come. At least without a fee anyway. The last time a young women in her 20′ s asked me, I asked her my choices and she looked at me as if to say “Just pick something”. She was not really interested. Does that mean there is hope?

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    • Your comment about sameness was fascinating. I think that individuals with limited experience tend to think almost everyone holds similar beliefs. In fact, as your reply suggests, they may not even know a different choice exists.

      Interesting that you thought the priest might not visit because you aren’t a member of a Parrish. I didn’t realize they only visited with members. Don’t Catholic Priests proselytize in attempts to convert people?

      After the second interaction with medical staff asking about my religion, I would guess that emotion of the woman you spoke with was apathy. Although the other employee had a different list, she mentioned only five religions: Christian, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, and Muslim. By the way, she stated that her suggestions were more diverse than the other person’s longer list. I admit that the teacher in me wants to educate the entire staff in the varieties of religious diversity (and I don’t mean enumerations of various Christian denominations), but I’ve decided to wait until I am no longer a patient there.

      You asked if there was hope. According to organizations like the Pew Foundation and Religious Tolerance Organization, increasing numbers of people have left their families’ religious tradition. So, yes, there is hope that people who recognize a diversity of faiths. But true acceptance of other beliefs may be a generation or two away.

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