Is There Room for God in the OR?

MakenzieR on 22 Feb 2012 at 12:30pm

If your surgeon wanted to pray before operating on you, how would you feel?

RealSelf member PJsLiLBritches said “I absolutely loved the fact that just before my procedure they prayed with me!” While another spiritual member said they were “slightly uncomfortable that my doctor feels like he needed to ask God to help him with the surgery.”

Here’s what some of the RealSelf doctors had to say about prayer in the OR:

“In my opinion, it is okay for you and your doctor to pray together before surgery if you are the one that initiates it and asks for the prayer.” - Dr. J. Jason Wendel, Nashville 

“I am proud to pray with a patient, I consider it an honor and entirely appropriate. The only issue I see is if the surgeon and the patient do not share a common faith... As a Christian, I consider it a delight to share a quiet, low key prayer just before a surgery.” - Dr. Charles Virden, Reno 

doctors prayer“Being a New Yorker now practicing in Memphis, TN, I was taken aback when I first saw a surgeon and patient praying just before surgery... All hospital meetings [in Memphis] begin with a prayer and it is common to have a short prayer on the public speaker system in each of our large hospitals. Most of my colleagues are spiritual and some are very religious but few routinely ask their their patients to pray with them before surgery. I find this to be inappropriate...If the patient asks for a prayer…I would gladly do it regardless of [their] faith.” - Dr. Peter A. Aldea, Memphis 

“Praying is not unusual prior to surgery. Some surgeons will pray in private while others will pray with the patient.” - Dr. Earl Stephenson Jr., Atlanta

“Consider that surgery involves mental and spiritual aspects in the physical alteration of tissue structure. Is it not appropriate, then, to use prayer, meditation, or simply a moment of silence to focus these qualities to produce the desired optimal outcome?” - Dr. Randy Wong, Honolulu

“Although I do not participate in any organized religion I have several friends who do and are surgeons and some of them offer to pray with the patient before surgery...When I had surgery my surgeon offered that and I was happy to have any and all help making the surgery go well.” - Dr. Ronald V. DeMars, Portland 

“No, it is not common that surgeons pray with their patients; on the other hand, I don't think it should alarm you too much. Assuming you have done your due diligence in the selection of your plastic surgeon,  it is probable that he was using prayer to help alleviate anxiety (as opposed to necessarily asking God for help).” - Dr. Tom J. Pousti, San Deigo

“I am a spiritual person and yet I would not personally suggest to a patient that we pray before surgery as this may not be comfortable for them and may not fit into their belief system. I think it is a personal thing and unless requested by the patient I would not bring it into the relationship.” - Dr. Richard P. Rand, Seattle

“By the other responses here it appears that this practice does occur to some extent in certain areas of the country and in those areas this may be acceptable. Having been in practice almost 25 years, I have never been asked by a patient nor have asked a patient to pray with me prior to surgery.” - Dr. Steven Turkeltaub, Scottsdale 
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As Dr. Turkeltaub points out, the culture of different regions may have an affect on how praying in the OR is received (which is why we listed their cities).

We want to know what you think -- whether you’re Atheist, devoutly religious, or somewhere in-between, how do you feel about your doctor offering to pray before surgery? Do those feelings change if they do it for and by themselves, versus with you to calm your own nerves?


Comments (20)

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I live in Oklahoma. The doctors play religious music in their offices and display open bibles and post the 10-commandments. This is very common here. One hand on the bible, the other on your wallet!!
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NHaven, Your comment is so true in many proffessions and so sad at the same time if you really think about it. But playing devil's advocate, Cosmetic surgeons spend $100,000's in schooling and the knowledge and skill it takes to do what they do I have to give them some room for a percent of what they charge. But as I said before, you comment did make me laugh. Irony is a kicker!!!
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BHaven, I think those doctors are "fake" Christians...using that religious music and Bibles to make themselves seem honest. I don't think that kind of music is appropriated for a doctor's office.
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I would neve try to impose my beliefs on anyone. I think anyone has a right to believe whatever he or she wishes, and should be left alone. No, medical teams should not ask you to pray WITH them, but if they want to pray for me, that's fine with me. It can't hurt, right? Well, that is unless they pray so long it wears the patient and themselves out before they do the surgery. I have gone to churches like that, and that's what wore me out going to church...was forced to go as a child. I do believe in a Supreme Being, but have agnostics as friends, and an atheist friend..., and I never try to get them to believe as I do.
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I am not a believer at all and I would be shocked if my surgeons started praying before operating me or even asking me to do so wih him. I would feel very embarassed and absolutely frightened by his(her) attitude as a doctor.
I absolutely don't think that surgical operation have nothing to do with prayers and I suppose that if God exhists should be quite buzy taking care of people who have health problems and cannot rely on a healthcare system.
I'm a healthy, wealthy person trying to look better and running risks to do so.
God has nothing to do with that in my opinion.
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Well I am going in tomorrow morning 10:00 I am scheduled for. Lots of prayers. I am trying to keep busy and not eat too much. Don't want to be too swelled. Best wishes to whoever is going in on the 9th like me!
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Good luck tomorrow!

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A nurse prayed for me before cataract surgery, and that went well. She was sick and not in attendance with my next eye surgery, and it did not go well. Hope I get her for my next surgery!
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I would take all the prayer I could get. Doesn't matter what religion you are. Who wouldn't want something to calm them when you go through something so scarry, any surgery is scarry. You could never have enough prayers said!
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I asked my surgeon to pray with me before my face lift. I thought it would be inspiring and calming for both of us. He was active in his church and very pleased to do so. We held hands and leaned forward, eyes closed.. and I was totally stunned when he reminded God that my procedure was elective! When my surgeon did a revision four months later I prayed to myself that he would do a better job!
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I would not have gotten the same doctor who messed up in the first place.
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I personally am a very big believer in faith and prayer but would not ask my doctor to participate.  I don't like to push religion on anyone.  That's a very personal comfort zone.  Now if the doctor asks me if he or she can pray for me that's another story.  Heck yeah bring it!

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You are right. Please pray that my next surgery, scheduled for April 23rd goes better than the one I had on Dec. 1st. Thanks!
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I personally want someone who is competent enough to know what he is doing without a god's help.
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I'm not religious/spiritual and wouldn't appreciate a doctor initiating this request. The doctor doesn't know me or my beliefs and it shows somewhat a lack of awareness on the doctors part.

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I agree. If the doctor wants to pray, do it silently, unless the patient asks him/her to pray. I wouldn't do that either.
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I don't like to feel obligated or pushed into anything and I think that any doctor that wants to pray in the OR is good with me. I pray and believe in God with all my heart but again I don't put anyone in an uncomfortable situation by asking them to pray with me. I have had a Pastor come into my room before surgery and pray but he did not ask my permission and I was not very happy with that move.
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I feel the same as you. That pastor was invading your privacy. I used to have to pray in church, and it was awful. I would refuse today.
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I think it can be a sensitive topic and would require a serious level of tactfulness and emotional intelligence on the surgeons part, but I think there's definitely room for that in the OR.  

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I prayed with my mother in the waiting area while waiting for my PS to arrive. I prayed for calmness for myself and a steady hand for my PS. I do not know her religious beliefs and did not want to offend her or make her feel awkward. I would have gladly prayed with my PS if she offerred.
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