Looking at situations where religion and medicine collide
“Few medical conflicts are as morally vexing””or as legally risky””as when a patient’s religious beliefs limit a physician’s treatment options. Some fundamentalist Christian patients, for instance, may decide to forgo treatment, preferring to rely on prayer instead. Patients in some sects refuse vaccination; others would refuse an appendectomy, because the body must enter the afterlife with all its organs. Even the decision to undergo pre-natal testing may be colored by religious beliefs.
In such situations, a doctor is forced to choose between two fundamental principles: respect for patient autonomy, and the duty to provide optimal care. In most cases, the most a physician can do is reason with the patient. But there are instances when the physician might be in a position to override a patient’s expressed wishes. In those situations, the physician’s decision could leave him as a defendant in a malpractice suit or charged with battery.”