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Medical Ethics |

Spirituality, Religion, and Clinical Care

Daniel P. Sulmasy, MD, PhD
Author and Funding Information

*From The John J. Conley Department of Ethics, Saint Vincent's Hospital-Manhattan, New York, NY; and the Bioethics Institute, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY.

Correspondence to: Daniel P. Sulmasy, MD, PhD, The John J. Conley Department of Ethics, Saint Vincent's Hospital-Manhattan, 153 W 11th St, New York, NY 10011; e-mail: daniel_sulmasy@nymc.edu


Editor's note: This review addresses the ninth topic in the core curriculum of the ongoing Medical Ethics series.—Constantine A. Manthous, MD, FCCP, Section Editor, Medical Ethics.

The author has reported to the ACCP that no significant conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2009;135(6):1634-1642. doi:10.1378/chest.08-2241
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Interest in the relationship between spirituality, religion, and clinical care has increased in the last 15 years, but clinicians need more concrete guidance about this topic. This article defines spirituality and religion, identifies the fundamental spiritual issues that serious illness raises for patients, and argues that physicians have a moral obligation to address patients' spiritual concerns. Religions often provide patients with specific moral guidance about a variety of medical issues and prescribe rituals that are important to patients. Religious coping can be both positive and negative, and it can impact patient care. This article provides concrete advice about taking a spiritual history, ethical boundaries, whether to pray with patients, and when to refer patients to chaplains or to their own personal clergy.


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