Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 244–254 | Cite as

Religiosity and Ethical Ideology of Physicians: A Cross-Cultural Study

  • D. C. Malloy
  • P. R. Sevigny
  • T. Hadjistavropoulos
  • K. Bond
  • E. Fahey McCarthy
  • M. Murakami
  • S. Paholpak
  • N. Shalini
  • P. L. Liu
  • H. Peng
Original Paper


In this study of ethical ideology and religiosity, 1,255 physicians from Canada, China, Ireland, India, Japan and Thailand participated. Forsyth’s (1980) Ethical Position Questionnaire and Rohrbaugh and Jessor’s (J Pers 43:136–155, 1975) Religiosity Measure were used as the survey instruments. The results demonstrated that physicians from India, Thailand and China reported significantly higher rates of idealism than physicians from Canada and Japan. India, Thailand and China also scored significantly higher than Ireland. Physicians from Japan and India reported significantly higher rates of relativism than physicians from Canada, Ireland, Thailand and China. Physicians from China also reported higher rates of relativism than physicians from Canada, Ireland and Thailand. Overall, religiosity was positively associated with idealism and negatively associated with relativism. This study is the first to explore the differences between ethical ideology and religiosity among physicians in an international setting as well as the relationship between these two constructs. Both religiosity and ethical ideology are extremely generalized, and the extent to which they may impact the actual professional behaviour of physicians is unknown. This paper sets up a point of departure for future research that could investigate the extent to which physicians actually employ their religious and/or ethical orientation to solve ambiguous medical decisions.


Physicians Ethics Religiosity cross-cultural 



This research was supported through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant to David Cruise Malloy and Thomas Hadjistavropoulos.


  1. Bachman, J. G., Alcser, K. H., Doukas, D. J., et al. (1996). Attitudes of Michigan physicians and the public toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. New England Journal of Medicine, 334, 303–309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, T., Bass, K., & Brown, G. (1996). Religiosity, ethical ideology, and intentions to report a peer’s wrongdoing. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 1161–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boivin, M. J. (1999). Religious index of maturing survey (Marthai, 1980). In P. C. Hill Jr & R. Hood (Eds.), Measures of religiosity (pp. 174–177). Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bowman, K. W., & Singer, P. A. (2001). Chinese seniors’ perspectives in end-of-life decisions. Social Science and Medicine, 53(4), 455–464.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen, S.-Y., & Liu, C.-C. (2009). Relationship between personal religious orientation and ethical ideologies. Social Behavior and Personality, 37(3), 313–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clark, J. W., & Dawson, L. E. (1996). Personal religiousness and ethical judgment: An empirical analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clark, W., & Schellenberg, G. (2006). Who’s religious? Canadian Social Trends, 81, 2–9.Google Scholar
  8. Curlin, F. A., Lantos, J. D., Roach, C. J., Sellergren, S. A., & Chin, M. H. (2005). Religious characteristics of US physicians: a national survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20, 629–634.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curlin, F. A., Lawrence, R. E., Odell, S., Chin, M. H., Lantos, J. D., Koenig, H. G., et al. (2007). Religion, spirituality, and medicine: Psychiatrists’ and other physicians’ differing observations, interpretations, and clinical approaches. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 1825–1831.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davis, M. A., Anderson, M. G., & Curtis, M. B. (2001). Measuring ethical ideology in business ethics: A critical analysis of the ethics position questionnaire. Journal of Business Ethics, 32, 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Demerath, N. J. (2001). Crossing the Gods: World religions and worldly politics. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Eastman, J. K., Eastman, K. L., & Tolson, M. A. (2001). The relationship between ethical ideology and ethical behavior intentions: An exploratory look at physicians’ responses to managed care dilemmas. Journal of Business Ethics, 31, 209–224.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Forsyth, D. R. (1980). A taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Forsyth, D. R., Nye, J. L., & Kelley, K. N. (1988). Idealism, relativism, and the ethic of caring. Journal of Psychology, 122, 243–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forsyth, D. R., O’Boyle, E. H., & McDaniel, M. A. (2008). East meets West: A meta-analytic investigation of cultural variations in idealism and relativism. Journal of Business Ethics, 83, 813–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forsyth, D. L., & Pope, W. K. (1984). Ethical ideology and judgments of social psychological research: Multidimensional analysis. Journal of Personality Social psychology, 6(6), 1365–1375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Freeland, R. (1997). Euthanasia and Islamic law. Medicolegal Journal, 65, 196–198.Google Scholar
  18. Gallup, G., & Lindsay, M. (1999). Surveying the religious landscape. Harrisburg, Pa: Morehouse.Google Scholar
  19. Glock, C. Y. (1959). The religious revival in America. In J. Zahn (Ed.), Religion and the face of America (pp. 25–42). Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Census Data. (2011). Internet retrieval January 4, 2011:
  21. Hadjistavropoulos, T., Malloy, D. C., Sharpe, D., & Fuchs-Lacelle, S. (2003). The ethical ideologies of psychologists and physicians: A preliminary comparison. Ethics and Behavior, 13, 97–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hofstede, G. (1997). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. London: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  23. Krause, N., Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Liang, J., & Sugisawa, H. (1999). Religion, social support, and health among the Japanese elderly. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 40, 405–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. MacNab, Y. C., Malloy, D. C., Hadjistavropoulos, T., Sevigny, P. R., Fahey McCarthy, E., Murakami, M., Paholpak, S., Shalani, N., & Liu, P. L. (2010). Idealism and relativism across cultures: A cross cultural examination of physicians’ responses on the ethics position questionnaire (EPQ). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. doi: 10.1177/0022022110383313.
  25. Malloy, D. C., Sevigny, P., Hadjistavropoulos, T., Jeyaraj, M., Fahey McCarthy, E., Murakami, M., et al. (2009). Perceptions of medical codes of ethics: An international study of physicians. Journal of Medicine, Health Care, & Philosophy, 12, 373–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McDonald, G. (2000). Cross-cultural methodological issues in ethical research. Journal of Business Ethics, 27, 89–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Monroe, M. H., Bynum, D., Susi, B., Phifer, N., Schultz, L., Franco, M., et al. (2003). Primary care physician preferences regarding spiritual behavior in medical practice. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163, 2751–2756.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. O’Brien, J., & Palmer, M. (1993). The state of religion Atlas. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  29. O’Fallon, M. J., & Butterfield, K. D. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 375–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Orr, R. D., & Issac, G. (1992). Religious variables are infrequently reported in clinical research. Family Medicine, 24, 602–606.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Overymyer, D. L. (Ed.). (2003). Religion in China today. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Oyama, O., & Koenig, H. G. (1998). Religious beliefs and practices in family medicine. Archives of Family Medicine, 7, 431–435.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rashid, Z., & Ibrahim, S. (2007). The effect of culture and religiosity on business ethics: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Business Ethics, 82, 907–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reader, I. (1991). Religion in contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rohrbaugh, J., & Jessor, R. (1975). Religiosity in youth: A personal control against deviant behavior. Journal of Personality, 43, 136–155.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Savulescu, J. (2006). Conscientious objection in medicine. British Medical Journal, 332, 294–297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sekaran, U. (1983). Methodological and theoretical issues and advancements in cross-cultural research. Journal of International Business Studies, 14, 61–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sood, J., & Nasu, Y. (1995). Religiosity and nationality: an exploratory study of their effect on consumer behavior in Japan and United States. Journal of Business Research, 34, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Swyngedouw, J. (1993). Religion in contemporary Japanese society. In M. R. Mullins, S. Susumu, & P. L. Swanson (Eds.), Religion and society in modern Japan (pp. 49–72). Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tarn, D. M., Meredith, L. S., Kagawa-Singer, M., Matsumura, S., Bito, S., Oye, R. K., et al. (2005). Trust in one’s physician: The role of ethnic match, autonomy, acculturation, and religiosity among Japanese and Japanese Americans. Annals of Family Medicine, 3, 339–347.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ward, B. J., & Tate, P. A. (1994). Attitudes among NHS doctors to request for euthanasia. British Medical Journal, 308, 1332–1334.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wenger, N. S., & Carmel, S. (2004). Physicians’ religiosity and end-of-life care attitudes and behaviors. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 71(5), 335–343.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Zuckerman, P. (2007). Atheism: Contemporary numbers and patterns. In M. Martin (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to atheism (pp. 47–65). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. C. Malloy
    • 1
    • 2
    • 11
    • 12
  • P. R. Sevigny
    • 3
  • T. Hadjistavropoulos
    • 2
    • 3
  • K. Bond
    • 4
  • E. Fahey McCarthy
    • 5
  • M. Murakami
    • 6
  • S. Paholpak
    • 7
  • N. Shalini
    • 8
  • P. L. Liu
    • 9
    • 10
  • H. Peng
    • 9
    • 11
    • 12
  1. 1.Faculty of Kinesiology and Health StudiesUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  2. 2.Centre on Aging and HealthUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  4. 4.Department of Religious StudiesUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of Nursing and MidwiferyTrinity CollegeDublinIreland
  6. 6.Department of SociologyMeiji Gakuin UniversityTokyoJapan
  7. 7.Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of MedicineKhon Kaen UniversityKhon KaenThailand
  8. 8.Psychiatric Services and Research FoundationChennaiIndia
  9. 9.Department of Orthopaedics, Qilu HospitalShandong UniversityJinanChina
  10. 10.International Bioethics Research InstituteYuchengChina
  11. 11.Faculty of MarxismHunan UniversityChangshaChina
  12. 12.Research Institute for Multiculturalism and Applied PhilosophyHunan UniversityChangshaChina

Personalised recommendations