ElderlyPalliative/End of LifeReligion/ Spirituality

Learning to apply spirituality to end-of-life care

Two white physicians simply sat for a time and respectfully and attentively conversed about end-of-life care with 23 terminally ill Black patients at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta Georgia. Almost every patient willingly brought up spirituality.

In their article based on this experience they conclude that to understand and show respect for patients’ spiritual views in the context of the patient doctor relationship are keys to providing excellent palliative care.

Here are some quotes from their experience.

“In our experience, for doctors to discuss spirituality in this depth is unusual.”

“A physician who wants to understand a patient’s spiritual views may … feel tension between the desire to be fully present with the patient, and the desire to be true to oneself and one’s appropriate role as a physician.”

“Understanding a patient’s spiritual core beliefs could greatly facilitate the doctor’s ability to honor the patient’s wishes for end-of-life care. Additionally, bearing witness to a patient’s faith is often a therapeutic act, whether or not the physician shares these beliefs.”

“For us, it is important to resolve this tension when caring for patients who derive support from a religious worldview and personal connection to God. We believe authentic, respectful understanding will be most supportive. Authentic means that one expresses feelings and beliefs that are congruent with one’s personal values. More than an outer demeanor, it is an inner attitude. Being respectful honors the patient’s dignity and is not intrusive.”

2/17/07 00:34 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.