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My Highly religious doctor knows I'm an Atheist

A few years ago, I took a Cultural Identity class (required) that was based on religions. The point of the class was to explore one's religious identity and compare it to others while urging tolerance. It was not an easy class for me because I was the only non-believer in the midst of quite a few clerics (including the professor). Needless to say, I got into quite a few heated debates.

Back to the point: The final consisted of interviewing someone outside of the student's religion before attending their church in order to interview members of the fold. Knowing that everyone at my doctor's office was religious (from the bibles, plagues, and such displayed), I asked one of the office staff if she would participate. This was after asking around five others but finding that they didn't attend church.

She accepted, acting thrilled and letting me know to bring my appetite since I would be invited to Sunday feast. I sent her the questions after getting them approved by my professor. The questions had to be specific, asking her about her opinion regarding other religions. I didn't phrase them with Atheists in mind. One of the questions was something like 'If a Muslim attended your church, would they be welcome?'.

Keep in mind that this class was about three years ago. I didn't receive a reply. No answers were forthcoming so I had to fall back on plan B. Of course, I didn't attend her church but I did (and still do) see her when I have to go to the doctor. Since that's every three months (blood work due to thyroid issue), it wasn't long after her failure to respond that I was back in their office.

I didn't point out her lack of response. I acted like we'd never set it up. Upon seeing me, she did a double-take with a sour expression so I know that she didn't approve of my questions. I ignored this. To this day, a wall seems to slam over the entire office's expression (including my doctor) when we have to visit them. Surrounded by all their religious paraphernalia, you'd think that professionalism would trump their personal opinions.

As my husband puts it; Are they secure in their beliefs? If they are, why preach so much? And why deem us a threat? After all, bias, prejudice, ignorance, etc. shouldn't be found in a doctor's office. They should treat all patients equally. I have discovered a deaf ear when it comes to my doctor. I recently had to go and ask that they increase the dosage of a non-addictive med for restless leg problems.

He made noise like it was okay. When I picked up the script, the dosage was cut in half with instructions to take it twice a day. That's not what was discussed within the office and this isn't the first time that communication inside the office didn't transfer.

Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of finding another doctor that lacks heavy religion.

So...what are your thoughts on this? Has anyone experienced intolerance from a professional which may have an impact on their health?

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Comment by John Aultman on January 31, 2014 at 8:40pm

After I retired from the military (22 years ago) and settled in Tennessee. My wife and I began to look for a physician that took our military insurance (CHAMPUS) and found one Knoxville.  We both made appointments for the same day just to meet him and set up our prescriptions we needed. At the end of the visit he called in his nurse and wanted us all to pray.  At first we thought he was joking but when we realized he wasn't we walked out.  The nurse followed us and ask if we wanted to make an appointment for another visit I told her no and we would not be coming back.  I called my CHAMPUS  rep explained what happened and was set up with another physician and have been with him for 22 years.  

Comment by Craigart14 on January 30, 2014 at 9:31pm

I've had the same dentist for 18 years now.  He is excellent, and everyone on his staff is excellent as well.  I learned a few years ago that he is a fundamentalist Baptist, only because he had written a Christian play for the community theater.  I suspect his staff are all members of the same church, but no one in the practice has ever even hinted about religion, and there's not a crucifix to be seen on the premises.

On the other hand, I used to go to a psychiatrist, a nice Indian man whom I liked very much.  He missed India, and after I mentioned that I had been there, he always wanted to talk about home.  So one day I asked him about Hinduism, and he said, "I am Muslim.  I don't believe in these toys."  Another time, I made an offhand comment about my atheism, and his jaw bounced off the desk.  "You don't believe in God?" he demanded incredulously.  Not exactly confidence inspiring.

I don't see him anymore because my employer changed my insurance--and because I don't seem to need a shrink these days.  A nice man, and not at all preachy.

That said, if I thought religion was affecting my doctor's judgment, I would immediately find a different doctor.

Comment by Luara on January 30, 2014 at 5:30pm

I've actually been fine with this doctor, have a good relationship.  But an issue came up where I really needed him to help me out, where he likely has a legal obligation to help me but didn't.   I can't easily go off to another doctor and don't really want to.  I haven't complained to anyone or sought legal advice, but him not helping me about this is not OK. 

Not wanting to hijack the topic either ... it just brought up the problem with my doctor. 

Comment by Daniel W on January 30, 2014 at 5:12pm

Beats me. Like I say, I don't know the law in your state, or the issue. Not wanting to hijack this topic, but it makes sense to find a different provider if you are so unhappy with this one you are filing a complaint. But I don't know.

Comment by Luara on January 30, 2014 at 5:08pm

What can one do when there's a problem, then?  It's not a medical issue, it's a legal issue. 

Comment by Daniel W on January 30, 2014 at 4:39pm

Complaining about your doctor to the state medical board might be a reason to fire you.  Kind of hard to be objective with someone who has just started an investigation against you.  It would seem to invalidate whatever doctor/patient relationship there is.  Just my opinion, I do not know the law in your state.

Comment by Luara on January 30, 2014 at 4:29pm

Do doctors ever "fire" patients for complaining about problems to the state medical association or whatever?  I have a problem with my doctor, wondering whether I can get help with it without making them unwilling to treat me. 

Comment by Reg MM on January 30, 2014 at 1:07pm

My doctor is a hippy type who sometimes suggests things that along the more "alternative" route. My question is always "Was there a double blind study done?" The first time I asked she did a double take. Now she rarely suggesst those types of things anymore. I really like my doctor. She's friendly and pays attention to what I tell her. I rarely have to tell her something twice. And I recently found out she's leaving, which threw me into a funk for a couple days.

At any rate, my point is you need to be your own advocate. Stick up for yourself. It doesn't sound like you have much choice. Call the doctor back and tell them there was a mix up with the meds. Be professional whenever you go there-to the doctor and the staff. Be the better person.

If you really feel like you're getting the shaft because of your beliefs then you need to start documenting them and if it gets really bad, then take it to the state medical board.

Comment by Daniel W on January 30, 2014 at 9:51am
If only you could go back and not ask that staffer to participate. I dont think its recommended to socialize with a doctor or their staff, because of potential conflict of interest issues. But what is done is done.

This gets into christian privilige. No one will tell you they are discriminating. You are left guessing. And many christians have no problem discriminating and lying about it.

I am openly gay and have had my partner at doctor appointments and when I needed surgery. He needs to be included, my health impacts him and he needs to hear first hand, to understand what is happening to me. I made sure we were transferred from the catholic hospital when emergency staff insisted on taking me there. There have been occasions when I thought there was discrimination. Never overt. Mostly I think they are just overwhelmed, incredibly overwhelmed, with the work volume. And some might be inept.

If you could, changing doctors would be worth considering. Since you cant, I would just call them to clarify the Rx issue snd let it drop.
Comment by Michael Penn on January 30, 2014 at 9:43am

If they feel this way, then why don't they just pray for you? After all, gawd gave him this wonderful gift of being a doctor. Wouldn't that seem to put doctoring above the power of prayer? Ignorance doesn't belong in a doctor's office, but they treat you this way because they are in fear of being ignorant. The religious cannot ever let this happen. They remain the smarter one and they have no evidence.

My own doctor may not be religious. He is from Iran, and I've never asked him religious things. He's a very smart older man and I think others sometimes make choices for him if you deal with his office over the phone. I had a blood pressure med set at 10 mg. so I called them to say that making the prescription 15 mg. would set the BP just perfectly. (My doctor originally had an hour and a half visit with me, and he encouraged me to do things like this.) Instead, they added a water pill to the medication (Lisinopril as one pill) and I had to quit taking the med. It caused too many other problems.

The working staff at a doctor's office are not always perfect.

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