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 
- - - -

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?