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Tag Archives: Unprofessional conduct

The other day I wrote a blog on the nurse who was suspended without pay last December for asking an elderly patient (who apparently did not solicit the invitation) . Caroline Petrie is now free to go back to work as a bank nurse (a nurse who is called in as needed on an hourly basis). There was a great deal of public pressure brought to bear on the hospital for the suspension, mainly out of a misunderstanding about what was going on. Some bloggers feel that this is a Christian being thrown to the lions, a martyr in the making.

Baloney. This was never about Petrie, but rather it was about patient care and upholding ethical standards. Simply put, Petrie violated a code of conduct to which she is professionally obligated to follow. If she has a problem with not abiding by a pretty standard section of medical ethics, she’s free to choose another career path.

It’s a bit easier to see the problem when the context is changed a bit, particularly for those who share Petrie’s religion of choice. For instance, if she had been a practitioner of voodoo and offered to sacrifice a chicken to Baron Samedi, I’m sure a very different brouhaha would have resulted. As Richard Sloan points out in his book Blind Faith: The unholy alliance of religion and medicine, there are just some boundaries a health care worker should not cross (and presents a few scary real-world examples of such outrageously unethical behavior by health care workers – I highly recommend the book).

Professionals are available to deal with a patient’s spiritual needs and if – and only if! – the patient requests such services, she could refer the patient to one of them. This is the professional way to handle such things. But Petrie (and many people who have no knowledge of medical ethics) think that acting in such an unprofessional manner is okay. Being Christian is not an excuse to violate codes of ethics.

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Many people might think this is okay –

Community nurse Caroline Petrie, 45, says she asked an elderly woman patient during a home visit if she wanted her to say a prayer for her.

I don’t. Nor would most health care professionals, religious or not. And unlike others who have blogged on this, I have the guts to leave my comments open.

A health care practitioner works in a hospital to provide one thing – health care. This can range from medical therapy to a good bedside manner. But offering religious services is outside any health care provider’s purview. Prayer is not a part any standard of care that I am aware of (and I have worked in a hospital setting). Such intercessory prayer has been extensively studied, with the largest (the STEP1 and MANTRA2,3 studies) showing almost no effect whatsoever. I say ‘almost’ because the STEP paradigm was of a clever design and was able tell show that people who knew they were being prayed for actually had worse outcome.

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