Dr. Bray Links

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Doctors Fail to Address Patients’ Spiritual Needs

Religion was never discussed in my medical training. In medical school, a priest maintained a small lounge, providing coffee and tea, where students could sometimes drop in to get coffee, but that was wholly optional, and most students never did so.

Yet studies have documented the importance of religion and spirituality to many patients. Seventy percent of dying patients want their doctor to ask them about their religious beliefs.

Religious beliefs also often affect patients' wishes when it comes to choosing aggressive end-of-life treatment or palliative care.

However, only half of those patients who want to discuss spiritual or religious concerns with someone in the hospital end up doing so. Those who discuss these issues – whether they initially wanted to do so or not – are, however, more likely to rate their overall hospital care as excellent. Among advanced cancer patients, 88 percent feel religion is at least somewhat important, and 72 percent feel the medical system supported their spiritual needs only minimally or not at all.

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