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Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life | Clinician's Corner

Spiritual Issues in the Care of Dying Patients:  “ . . . It's Okay Between Me and God”

Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2006;296(11):1385-1392. doi:10.1001/jama.296.11.1385.
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Spiritual issues arise frequently in the care of dying patients, yet health care professionals may not recognize them, may not believe they have a duty to address these issues, and may not understand how best to respond to their patients' spiritual needs. The case of a patient with a strong religious belief in a miraculous cure of metastatic pancreatic cancer is used to explore how better understanding of this belief and more explicitly spiritual conversation with the patient by his treating team might have provided opportunities for an improved plan of care. This article distinguishes spirituality from religion; describes the salient spiritual needs of patients at the end of life as encompassing questions of meaning, value, and relationship; delineates the role physicians ought to play in ascertaining and responding to those needs; and discusses the particular issue of miracles, arguing that expectations of miraculous cure ought not preclude referral to hospice care.

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