Thursday, August 31, 2006

Medicine is a Science and an Art, not a Religion

Medical Practices Blend Health and Faith
Doctors, Patients Distance Themselves From Care They Consider Immoral

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2006; Page A01

Sandwiched between a swimming pool store and a spice shop on Lee Highway in Fairfax, the Tepeyac Family Center looks like any other suburban doctor's office. But it isn't.

The practice combines "the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ," a brochure at the reception desk announces. An image of the Madonna greets every patient. Doctors, nurses and staff members gather to pray each day before the first appointments. (emphasis added)
I suppose they do so towards Bethlehem. This was the front page above the fold story in the Washington Post! What if this paragraph read:
The practice combines "the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Allah," a brochure at the reception desk announces. No images of any kind greet the patients, being forbidden by the Koran. Doctors, nurses and staff members gather to pray each day, kneeling towards Mecca, before the first appointments Women doctors and nurses wear burqas and it is forbidden that male doctors examine women.
The question becomes, is mixing religion and medicine good for the patient? A recent study showed that intensive care patients who were actively "prayed for" fared worse than those who were not. Furthermore, nowhere in the many textbooks that I have on medicine is there any indication for the use of prayer. The article goes on:
shunning birth-control and morning-after pills, IUDs and other contraceptive devices, sterilizations, and abortions, as well as in vitro fertilization. Instead, doctors offer "natural family planning" -- teaching couples to monitor a woman's temperature and other bodily signals to time intercourse.
What do you call a couple practicing rhythm birth control?

Answer: Parents.

It is a fact that the Bush Administration's efforts in Africa to enforce "abstinence" rather than the use of condems has resulted in many more children for which there are no resources and an increase in AIDS.

O.K., enough snark. Yes, I think a person's religious beliefs should be taken into account in medicine, since it part of the social milieu. But bringing religion into the consultation room as a part of what should be science and art? It is a political stunt. It is an effort to enforce one's religion on others.

Now, where have I seen that before.


Anonymous said...

Rhythm Method? Whoa! Someone needs to go back to back to medical school for a refresher course on Natural Family Planning methods. It's doctors like you that really scare me and make me thankful that I found a practice like Tepeyac Center. Not sure how old you are, but times have changed and everyone understands that the Rhythm Method doesn't work. Many new methods of Natural Family Planning methods have been developed that have a high degree of effectiveness. I and most of my friends use NFP. No surprises, thank you very much. I appreciate that I have a choice. Please don't force your ethical beliefs on me by taking away my choice to see an ObGyn with whom I see eye to eye about medical ethics.

Dr. C said...

Gee, Anonymous, I should have said rhythm-plus. And is it effective? Well, there isn't a lot of research out there because, you see, its a faith based initiative and that sort of doesn't allow room for science. But, if you look here:
you will find that, compared to a condom which is 95% or greater effective, NFP is typically around 80%. Of course oral contraceptives are much more effective but don't protect against STD's nor does NFP (and don't go ranting about STD's; live in the real world for a while). As for forcing my ethical beliefs on you, no thank you. I simply don't like to see millions of children starving to death because the Bush Administration is convinced that telling someone not to have sex is an effective means of birth control. And you, my dear Anonymous, because you voted for him (if you're old enough) have foisted that ethical stricture on the foreign policy of America and I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...ya, those are figures for the "Calendar Method" you cited. Everyone I know uses the Sympto-Thermal Method which has a 2% failure rate with perfect use. With typical use, condoms are only 85% effective. See Planned Parenthood for those stats.

I didn't vote for Bush. I am no fan of his. Kindly refrain from making such gross assumptions.

Dr. C said...

Actually, if you linked to the article I cited,

"d) Two or more indicator methods (symptothermal methods)

Estimates range from about 2% with perfect use to about 15% to 20% with typical use.

The most interesting thing though is that you didn't vote for Bush. Forgive me for so assuming but it sure sounded like it.

The problem, of course, is one of rationality. Once you accept the scientific method, and scientific studies (including epidemiology and studies of human behavior) it is very hard to reject the findings of such in favor of faith based medicine. This does not mean I want you to change your beliefs, you can believe in the tooth fairy for all I care, but it does mean that I don't want those beliefs determining what we do as a country and society. Not supporting effective family planning in favor of abstinence (of which NFP is one example) has, once again, led to a disaster in Africa.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I wondered if would catch that. I did the same thing as you- flip-flopped the actual VS typical use percentages in my favor. So, you'll agree that with typical use condoms about the same as NFP for effectiveness? I will point out that most NFP couples are very open to having children. Consequently, they may be more lax with the rules and have a pregnancy which they aren't really surprised about because they knowingly took risks. I suspect that's is why the typical use rate is 85%.

I don't know why you thought I voted for Bush unless you have ingrained stereotypes.

Africa is a separate issue. Let's stick with the one at hand. I don't see what it has to do with my choice to go to a doctor who shares my beliefs about medical ethics. I just want to go to a doctor who knows something about modern Natural Family Planning and doesn't call it the "Rhythm Method" (this really irks me especially when it comes from doctors who, of all people, really should know better).