CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) — When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans.
An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors “need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle.”
More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57 percent — said God’s intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand that treatment continue.
When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome.
“Sensitivity to this belief will promote development of a trusting relationship” with patients and their families, according to researchers. That trust, they said, is needed to help doctors explain objective, overwhelming scientific evidence showing that continued treatment would be worthless.
Pat Loder, a Milford, Michigan, woman whose two young children were killed in a 1991 car crash, said she clung to a belief that God would intervene when things looked hopeless.
“When you’re a parent and you’re standing over the body of your child who you think is dying … you have to have that” belief, Loder said.
While doctors should be prepared to deal with those beliefs, they also shouldn’t “sugarcoat” the truth about a patient’s condition, Loder said.
Being honest in a sensitive way helps family members make excruciating decisions about whether to let dying patients linger, or allow doctors to turn off life-prolonging equipment so that organs can be donated, Loder said.
Loder was driving when a speeding motorcycle slammed into the family’s car. Both children were rushed unconscious to hospitals, and Loder says she believes doctors did everything they could. They were not able to revive her 5-year-old son; soon after her 8-year-old daughter was declared brain dead.
She said her beliefs about divine intervention have changed.
“I have become more of a realist,” she said. “I know that none of us are immune from anything.”
Loder was not involved in the survey, which appears in Monday’s Archives of Surgery.