[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Student JAMA
June 16, 2004

Spirituality and the Patient-Physician Relationship

JAMA. 2004;291(23):2884. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2884

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.

First Page Preview View Large
First page PDF preview
First page PDF preview
×