I was really interested to see a feature in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal entitled “Why religious belief should be declared as a competing interest”, in which Richard Smith and Jane Blazeby suggested that people’s faith can have a profound effect on their views on matters such as assisted dying and abortion, and argue that disclosure of religious belief is essential to provide the reader of an article with a full context for interpretation.
I wrote about the question of objectivity several years ago, although I went even further and suggested that we need to be aware that any belief system or experience can impact a person’s views. As well as matters such as assisted dying and abortion (which are the focus of the feature in the BMJ), our beliefs, values and experiences (whether religious, humanistic, scientific, technocratic, holistic, atheistic or other in nature) can have a significant impact upon the way we see many things in life. And when we work in an area which involves sharing written or verbal information with others, then we have a responsibility to let people know ‘where we are coming from’ ideologically.
Yes, including me. That’s why I have an about page and why my book ‘What’s Right For Me: making decisions in pregnancy and childbirth’ includes a section in which I describe my own experience and beliefs. I don’t mind whether anyone agrees with me or not; I just want to ensure that people are able to evaluate the basis of my information in the same way that I encourage people to evaluate the basis of any other information they come across. And I’d love to encourage others to do the same.
No-one is unbiased. Context is important. Knowing the context of information can help us better make the decisions that are right for us.