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Physicians’ duty to refrain from religious discourse: a response to critics
  1. Ryan K Hubbard1,
  2. Jake Greenblum2
  1. 1 Social Sciences, Gulf Coast State College, Panama City, Florida, USA
  2. 2 University Health System, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ryan K Hubbard, Social Sciences, Gulf Coast State College, Panama City, FL 32401, USA; rhubbard2{at}

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We recently argued that—contrary to what we call the dominant view—physicians ought to avoid engaging patients on religious grounds.1 The six responses to our article present an array of concerns and have provided us with the opportunity to consider further aspects of our view. While we cannot reply to all the relevant issues, our aim here is to reply to the most significant concerns.

Against our Public Reason Argument, Nick Colgrove maintains that physicians are not relevantly akin to public officials and should therefore not be constrained by public reasons. Colgrove does not take issue with the idea that it may be reasonable for public officials to justify their policymaking according to public reasons because their policies affect a diverse population. But since ‘the [medical] decision being made is not binding for other patients,’ physicians need not be constrained by public reasons.2 Colgrove’s criticism hinges on the claim that deliberation ought to be constrained by public reason only if the outcome of such deliberation is a policy or a rule that a diverse group of people must follow (ie, to which they are bound).

We disagree with this claim. We do not believe, nor did we argue, that this is a necessary condition for when we are morally required to cite public reasons. Instead we believe that three facts together provide sufficient reason for why physicians should generally be constrained by public reasons: physicians are directly and indirectly paid by the state via Medicare and Medicaid; physicians allocate public resources; and physicians are regulated by the state.

Colgrove takes particular issue with our ‘Dr Chatterjee case’, which is meant to illustrate why citing religious reasons is inappropriate. And our explanation for why we find this case jarring …

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed substantially and equally to the content, arguments and organisation of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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