In further analyses, physicians who reported being very or extremely non-religious reported higher rates of using continuous deep sedation, making a decision involving some intention to hasten the end of life, and supporting the legalization of euthanasia compared with those who held strong religious beliefs.
Non-religious physicians also were more likely to report having discussions about treatments that were expected to shorten life.
"This is similar to the finding from a U.S. study, which found more religious doctors to be less likely to feel they should disclose information about procedures to which they objected on moral grounds (birth control for adolescents, abortion and 'terminal sedation' in dying)," Seale wrote.
A physician's specialty was associated with end-of-life decision-making as well. With the exception of physicians who identified their specialty as palliative care, specialist doctors were more likely to report making a decision expected to shorten life and supporting the legalization of assisted dying.
Seale acknowledged that the study was limited by the low response rate and the reliance on retrospective recall and responses to fixed-choice questions.
Prigerson said that for patients, the study suggests that it's important to understand what other values may also influence a physicians decision.
"Knowing where your doctor is coming from and why they recommend a type of care can't hurt and can only help in making treatment decisions," said Prigerson.