When the man arrived at the emergency room, it was clear to Dr. Dana King that he was having a heart attack -- and that he was terrified.
"I could see the look on his face," said King, a family physician and a professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
King took immediate medical steps to help the man. But he also did something a bit unexpected. "I took his hand and attempted to comfort him. I asked him, 'Are you a religious person?'" King said.
"He looked at me like he was looking at me for the first time," King recalled. "A wave of relief came over him. He could see that I was making a connection on a different level. We prayed together, right in the middle of the emergency room. It was a short prayer, but it was just a way to touch someone intimately."
The patient, in his late 40s, survived. King doesn't think it was just the prayer that saved the man's life. Without the life-saving medical treatment, he wouldn't have lived.
I'm not a particularly religious person, but I see nothing wrong with doctors asking patients if they're religious, and then offering to pray with them. Because while the effect of prayer on health status is unclear, one thing isn't: optimistic people live longer, and if you're feeling confident and connected with your doctor, you're probably feeling a little optimistic. Stress and fear harm the body, surely it's better to avoid these feelings and give patients a deeper sense of safety and security.
Further, I'm not sure why this is surprising or newsworthy:
Curlin and his fellow researchers surveyed 1,260 practicing physicians in the United States. They found that 76 percent of the doctors believe in God, and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife. The researchers also found that 90 percent of the doctors attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of adults in the general population. And 55 percent said their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.
If you take Americans as a whole, 81% identify themselves with a specific religion, and 76% identify themselves as Christian. So doctors are like the rest of the nation.