51 2

You work in healthcare, you are about to be fully responsible for the life of a patient in surgery for hours. Your patient has pastor and family in room before going to OR. Pastor asks you to join them in a prayer to help the surgery along. Everyone joins hands in a prayer circle. What do you do?

View Results
thatgirllaura 5 July 24

Post a comment Reply Add Photo

Enjoy being online again!

Welcome to the community of good people who base their values on evidence and appreciate civil discourse - the social network you will enjoy.

Create your free account


Feel free to reply to any comment by clicking the "Reply" button.


Tell him/her I am not a believer, but I will give my patient the full benefit of my training and discipline, then I would excuse myself and leave the room.


I am a midwife, and have had occasions where a woman needed an emergency cesearean, or tell her that her baby had died or has a life threatening or not compatible with life, birth defect. That is a time of great fear, great sorrow, great apprehension and devastation. At a time like that, they don't need me to tell them I am atheist and don't want to pray with them, or whatever. It isn't hurting me one bit to stand quietly, hold hands and listen to a prayer with them. I don't bow my head, or close my eyes, but a few minutes of something that gives them a bit of comfort is no skin off my back. It isn't a time for me to act all superior, or disgusted about what they believe. I don't have to believe in what they believe in. It doesn't really matter to me what they believe. It is their business. My job is to do whatever it takes to have them safe and get the best possible outcome. If this helps, I'll do it. I have had many women with all kinds of beliefs. Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Taoist, Pagan, Atheist, or whatever.


I personally don't find that there's any harm in indulging someone in a time of great need and trepidation. You provide them with comfort, and I'm quite sure you will not go to atheist hell for it...

I completely agree


A situation like that is not about you or your beliefs. You, as the doctor, are there to provide comfort, stability, and confidence to that patient and their family. You should be doing everything in your power to make the patient as comfortable and stress free as possible, it is only going to make their healing easier.

If you can easily bow out, that is fine, if not patiently wait while they pray then excuse yourself to continue your work.

The entire situation is about them and their needs not the doctor's personal beliefs which should not weigh into the situation any more than a religious doctor's personal beliefs should weigh in when providing care to LGBT patients, or pregnant women, etc.

icolan Level 7 July 24, 2018

Out of respect for the distraught family members I would be supportive of whatever means they chose to deal with their anxiety.


Be respectful. It won't hurt and it will reassure them.


Stand quietly and respectfully. Life and death outweigh my personal feelings.


I feel like regardless of your religious or spiritual views, it’s simply a small act of kindness to just bow your head and close your eyes and allow your patient some peace of mind


In a situation like this, being respectful to others may be a better option than making a stand. Just my opinion.


It's hard to say you would do something but until you are in the predicament you can't really say. I usually do not partake in the bowing of the head or anything like that but when the entire family is there and they are relying on you, the Dr, to take care of their family member, they would probably feel a lot more comforted if they saw the Dr atleast go through the motions of praying. I think it is part of the job at that point..considering atheists are not religious it will not offend us or affect us one bit to go through the motions to comfort a family in need.

Jjones Level 4 July 24, 2018

I work in a catholic organization. I've been there. This is a pragmatic decision. Let them have their superstition. Hold hands. Wish them well. Make sure it doesn't affect the procedure. Move on.

Doing anything against the family's wishes would be a genuine dick move. If you aren't in spiritual care, praying isn't your responsibility either. Balance the best you can.

One of the best experiences about being an atheist is that you aren't tied to a dogma. You can do what is right as the situation calls. Not limited to only one right or wrong answer.

CK-One Level 6 July 25, 2018

State of mind is a large factor in healing. If participating in a prayer helps ease the patient and family, why not?

TexLC Level 4 July 24, 2018

Do whatever reasonable thing that needs to be done to calm their nerves.


"I have a few things to take care of before I take him/her in... I have no doubt, looking at all of you, that there will be more than enough power in your prayers."

Then run to the washroom and wash your mouth out with soap.

Athena Level 8 July 24, 2018


That IS profanity to an atheist.


I had a Catholic boyfriend five or so years ago, and Christmas dinner got super awkward. When we all sat down to eat, his aunt passed out this rice paper stuff.. Body of Christ yada yada yada. I shoved mine under my plate, thinking no one would notice. Holy shit, when we got in the car to go home, my ex bf was pretty upset. He said, what's the big deal? Why couldn't you just go with it, if you don't believe in it, what's the difference??

I asked, "If I handed you a cup full of the blood of Satan, would you drink it? " That's not the same thing at all, was his response. Uh, no. It kinda definitely is the same thing. Needless to say, we weren't together very long. Now, if the same thing happened, I feel like I've grown enough to just go ahead and eat it. It's weird and culty in my opinion, but it's just rice paper.

So yeah, I'd join hands out of respect for the family. Prayer isn't really all that difficult to deal with. We roll our eyes, but if that's what someone needs to be comfortable... And I'm being paid a surgeons salary... Just join hands and bow your head. You won't burst into flames ? However, I'd keep my eyes open like I always do in this situation. Somehow that makes me feel better about it.


Either join in or graciously decline. Its not about you it's about the patient

^This. Not the time to make a point. Attempting to do so just makes you look petty.


Close my eyes and be respectful but also roll them ? while they are closed lol


Sometimes you just have to fake it. This looks like one of those times to me.

zeuser Level 8 July 24, 2018

Either you do it respectfully as it’s a small comfort for a patient that’s possibly dying, will be dead, or is going through tremendous pain. Or, if you are that staunchly against prayer, graciously bow out and wait until they are done.

I was a combat medic in the Army and a lot of my infantry buddies found religion when they were being shot at or being blown up. I only ever lost one soldier. I never knocked them for it because it’s a scary thing. If it brings them a little peace, I don’t mind it.

Leo716 Level 6 July 25, 2018

I attend a small, friendly church although the pastor and many (all?) of the members know I'm a nonbeliever. Recently I was in the hospital and a group of them came to visit. As they prepared the pastor said, "I know you don't want me to, but I'm going to say a prayer for you." I thought I would smile with the nurse during the prayer, but she had her eyes closed too."


I think I'd try to bow out gracefully by saying something like, "Oh, no thank you; that should be time for the family and I'd feel like I were intruding." If they insisted after that, I'd stand with them respectfully as they prayed and then politely excuse myself after they were finished.


Hold hands, don't bow my head. I wouldn't close my eyes. I would just be quiet and wait for it to be over, not add anything or make the moment about me.

i never got the bow head and close eyes thingy. i always look around and see who's looking too. like at funerals.


Almost all these comments, 57 as I write this, are supportive of the partient and their family. How wonderful it is to see this and how proud it makes me to be a member of this group!


I have been in this predicament many times. You have to finesse the situation in the moment. I stood by passively during prayer when I was a young Neonatal Intensive Care nurse -- out of respect and empathy for the family with a dying infant. Now, I don't do that -- different circumstances: fairly healthy, adult patient population with lower level of acuity yet over-the-top drama. I respectfully decline to participate. I don't discuss religion or politics with patients. It's a no-win for me. Sometimes it's a fine balance to deliver care while holding on to your integrity and autonomy.


Since that person is in healthcare and prepping a patient for surgery, it might be easy to glance at watch and bow out due to "preparation tasks". Or, join in and think about naughty sexy things. Their praying or my joining in doesn't effect my atheism, though I do see where one might be uncomfortable about perpetuating an untrue assumption about one's self. I'd feel that way. But when others are worried about life or death surgery, I think what they need at that moment is more important than my own needs.


Tell them that I cannot join them since I need to scrub and prep for the proceedure.

If I wanted to be real snarky I might add .... so that I can undo the damage your god's will has done to you.

Thanks but you really don't need to pray to me or call me god. I am going to do my best and I will use all the scientific principals at my disposal to make my patient better.

Write Comment
You can include a link to this post in your posts and comments by including the text q:139137
Agnostic does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content. Read full disclaimer.