Religion can be both helpful and hurtful when treating illnesses, speaker says

Delivering bad news is difficult, but it’s part of Mary Muscato’s job. She’s a hematologist and oncologist at Missouri Cancer Associates.

But she said religion can be very helpful in the process – sometimes, her patients feel at peace with the news, strongly believing in “God’s plan.”

Mary Muscato spoke about her experience with patients' religions at SashaCon Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams.

Mary Muscato spoke about her experience with patients’ religions at SashaCon Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams.

Muscato spoke about this topic at SashaCon on Saturday, (March 15). MU SASHA (Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics) hosted the conference.

She said that as she’s seen people turn toward religion, it’s not that they are losing hope.

“They aren’t giving u,” she said. “They are just accepting.”

Muscato said that while religion can be helpful, it can also cause problems – sometimes, patients turn down treatment or look for other methods due to religious beliefs.

During these moments, she said it’s hard that she can’t do anything because it’s their choice and she respects them as human beings.

Muscato said that scientific medicine used to be much more powerful than other medicines. But now, alternative medicines are taking precedence. She said that doctors are becoming just one option people might use to treat their illnesses.

Although, she admits western medicine doesn’t have it all figured out, either.

Muscato said that it’s human nature to want to find out an explanation for an, illness but that it’s important to trust your doctor. And as a doctor, it’s important to gain the patients trust.

She said that although she wishes she could just wave a magic wand, it’s not that easy. But she says she does at least know more about the illness than the “guy down the street with the vitamins.”

Muscato said that nobody wants to do chemotherapy, and that it’s sometimes easier to look for alternative treatments. But she will continue to try to gain her patients’ trust and talk them into undergoing her treatments because she fears the other options will lead to death.

Heather Adams

About Heather Adams

Heather Adams is a junior at MU. She is majoring in convergence journalism and religious studies. She's been reporting for Columbia Faith & Values as an intern since the site was launched, and she served as an intern in summer 2013. Now, she volunteers as a reporter and also helps with site marketing and community engagement.

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