Pew Finds That God-Belief Is a Big Factor In Allocating Scarce Medical Resources April 25, 2020

Pew Finds That God-Belief Is a Big Factor In Allocating Scarce Medical Resources

If, in times of crisis, there is a shortage of life-saving devices like ventilators, who should get priority access to them? Should patients with the greatest immediate need get moved to the head of the line? Or should the life-saving technology go to whoever has the greatest chance of recovery?

It’s a trolley problem kind of question. Interestingly, the way you answer it indicates whether you’re more likely to be religious, or more likely to be a none.

In a new Pew Research Center poll, the organization tallied the responses from 4,917 Americans, and concluded that

People with no religious affiliation are the only group with a majority (56%) saying that ventilators should be saved for those with the highest chance of recovery … even if that means some patients don’t receive the same aggressive treatment because they are older, sicker and less likely to survive. …

[M]ost of the religiously affiliated groups covered in this analysis say ventilators in short supply should go to patients who need them most in the moment, which might mean that fewer people survive but no one is denied treatment based on their age or health status. This view is shared by roughly six-in-ten of both evangelicals (60%) and Protestants from historically black churches (59%). Only one-third of evangelicals believe that priority should be given to those who are most likely to survive with aggressive treatment.

The majority view among the non-religious

… aligns with medical guidelines that typically call for a utilitarian approach — one that prioritizes good outcomes for the greatest number of people…

[R]esearch show[s] that people who are not religious tend to prefer utilitarian solutions in a variety of moral dilemmas. This may in part be due to a lack of shared, formalized moral rules among the nonreligious, who are more likely to rely on personal philosophy and ethical principles when resolving moral quandaries.

It’s different for God-followers. They

… often rely on deeply ingrained moral rules and on guidance from religious leaders and texts. Religious people also may respond negatively to the idea of doctors “playing God” by choosing which patients should receive potentially life-saving treatments.

Understandably, older people are more likely to feel that survivability shouldn’t much factor into the hospital’s decision; and since the religious are demographically older than non-believers, that also explains part of the different emphasis between those who embrace faith and those for whom it isn’t a factor.

Honestly, I can see it both ways, and just consider myself lucky that I’ll probably never be in the unenviable position of having to make such a choice. My hat’s off to the doctors who must; I wouldn’t openly second-guess them even if I’d ultimately made the opposite decision.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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