Background: Patients' religious beliefs can offer support at times of illness and disease. Therefore religious beliefs of patients are important in doctor-patient interaction.
Objective: To assess to what extent GPs pay attention to religious beliefs of patients in their daily work.
Methods: A postal questionnaire was sent to 120 GPs. The questionnaire consisted of five clusters of items with precoded Likert-scale answer categories related to several clinical situations.
Results: Response rate was 72% (n = 87). Upon registration in the practice, 16% of the GPs paid attention to the religious beliefs of patients, while in situations concerning end-of-life decisions like terminal illness or requests for euthanasia most GPs pay attention to religious beliefs of patients (79%). In general GPs brought up in Protestant families tend to pay more attention to religious beliefs of patients than GPs with a Catholic background (65% vs 36%; 95% CI 5-51) and Protestant GPs pay more attention to these aspects than Catholic GPs (81% vs 47%; 95% CI 5-63).
Conclusions: Most GPs tend to pay attention to religion when their medical possibilities in patient care come to an end. GPs and trainees might be conscious of these aspects in patient management. Since most GPs are familiar just with Western religions, the increasing number of non-Western religious denominations might have consequences for patient care in general practitioners' work.