Medical Religious Studies in an interdisciplinary examination of how religious beliefs and practices and medical beliefs and practices influence each other and respond to each other.
One aspect of this includes looking at the direct effects of religious beliefs on health and disease such as susceptibility to illness, avoidance of medical testing or treatment, likelihood of choosing non-medical or alternative treatments, engaging in healthy or unhealthy behavior, the effects of prayer and spiritual practices on clinical outcomes, and whether it is clinically indicated to take a “spiritual history” of a patient.
Another aspect of such study looks at the historical and social dimensions of medicine and religion to see how medical practices and religious doctrines have influenced each other, such as the use of anesthesia, the concept of God or saints as “healers”, distinguishing between religious devotion and psychopathological religious delusions, the affects of healthcare workers’ religious attitudes on care, physician’s rights to refuse certain treatments or to work with certain patients, and the limit of patients’ rights to demand or refuse certain treatments or physicians (religious exemption laws).
- Education: Training health care professionals in relevant knowledge of religious attitudes and beliefs, assisting in reconciling religious beliefs with medical professionalism
- Research: Studying the relationship between religious devotion and religious mania, determining best practices for beneficial spirituality on clinical outcomes
- Clinical: Applying best spiritual practices to improve clinical outcomes, clarifying for patients what their own faith traditions do and do not require