Commentary

Keeping your religious belief outside the office


 

References

Religion isn’t an uncommon topic in a doctor’s office, and mine is no exception. Patients often express their personal beliefs in difficult situations, and part of my job is to listen and support.

But when they ask me about my own, I don’t answer. I simply tell them that I don’t discuss such things with patients.

People can have pretty strong feelings about religion, and whether I agree or disagree with them doesn’t have a place in my office. Religion, like politics, opens a can of personal opinion worms that disrupts the doctor-patient relationship. It can make things unworkable.

The last thing I want, or need, during an appointment is a debate over evolution, the perennial Middle East crisis, or belief (or lack thereof) in a deity. There are plenty of good forums to argue such subjects, but my office isn’t one of them.

On rare occasions, someone calling for an appointment will ask about my religious orientation. My secretary has been told to say “I don’t know.” If that matters to you when you’re looking for a doctor, you’re probably better off going elsewhere.

I have nothing against social pleasantries. They’re part of the ordinary patter in my office, and help maintain a degree of doctor-patient comfort to let us talk openly. But religious beliefs are a topic that, with some people, can rapidly spiral out of control. On the rare occasions where they become acrimonious, it pretty much destroys the fabric of the professional relationship. So, my belief is that it’s best not to start in the first place.

Some find religion to be an important part of who they are, and I’m willing to listen to that and not be judgmental. But don’t expect me to share my own thoughts at an appointment. It’s not why either of us is there.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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