Recently, the role that spiritual beliefs should play in the patient-physician
relationship has generated controversy within the medical community. Several
small studies have examined the attitudes and practices of patients and physicians
about spirituality in the clinical encounter.
In a convenience sample survey of 150 adult patients seen in 3 family
practices in Vermont, 52% of the 135 respondents believed that a physician
had the right to inquire about religious beliefs, although only 21% felt that
it was the physician's responsibility to do so. The majority of patients could
not recall any physician inquiries about religion regardless of the clinical
situation.1 In another convenience sample
of 100 patients at a university-based family practice center in Kansas, 80
completed questionnaires were returned. Patients who regularly attended religious
services (57%) were more likely than infrequent attendees to believe that
physicians should ask patients about their personal faith (63% vs 13%).2 A cross-sectional survey of 203 inpatients (total
number of potentially eligible patients not identified) at 2 family practice
services found that, regardless of religious service attendance, the majority
(77%) of patients believed physicians should consider their spiritual needs
and 48% actually wanted their physicians to pray with them.3 Patients
were less enthusiastic about physicians discussing their own specific beliefs.
Thirty-seven percent wanted their physicians to do so more than they do now
but 47% did not want physicians to discuss their religious beliefs at all.
Astrow AB, Sulmasy DP. Spirituality and the Patient-Physician Relationship. JAMA. 2004;291(23):2884. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2884