Talking About Spirituality in the Clinical Setting: Can Being Professional Require Being Personal?
Kuczewski, Mark G.
American Journal of Bioethics 2007 July; 7(7): 4-11
Spirituality or religion often presents as a foreign element to the clinical environment, and its language and reasoning can be a source of conflict there. As a result, the use of spirituality or religion by patients and families seems to be a solicitation that is destined to be unanswered and seems to open a distance between those who speak this language and those who do not. I argue that there are two promising approaches for engaging such language and helping patients and their families to productively engage in the decision-making process. First, patient-centered interviewing techniques can be employed to explore the patient's religious or spiritual beliefs and successfully translate them into choices. Second, and more radically, I suggest that in some more recalcitrant conflicts regarding treatment plans, resolution may require that clinicians become more involved, personally engaging in discussion and disclosure of religious and spiritual worldviews. I believe that both these approaches are supported by rich models of informed consent such as the transparency model and identify considerations and circumstances that can justify such personal disclosures. I conclude by offering some considerations for curbing potential unprofessional excesses or abuses in discussing spirituality and religion with patients.
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