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Medical Ethics |

A Practical Approach to the Family That Expects a Miracle

Horace M. DeLisser, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Department of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Correspondence to: Horace M. DeLisser, MD, SVM-Hill Pavilion, Room 410B, 380 South University Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4539; e-mail: delisser@mail.med.upenn.edu


This article was supported by National Institutes of Health grant No. K07HL07921 and by the Marilyn Ware Charitable Lead Annuity Trust Fund for Spirituality, Religion and Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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):1643-1647. doi:10.1378/chest.08-2805
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When a patient is extremely ill and/or dying, and the family expects a miraculous recovery, this situation can be very challenging to physicians, particularly when there is certainty that the miracle will occur through divine intervention. A practical approach is therefore provided to clinicians for engaging families that anticipate the miraculous healing of a sick patient. This strategy involves exploring the meaning and significance of a miracle, providing a balanced, nonargumentative response and negotiation of patient-centered compromises, while conveying respect for patient spirituality and practicing good medicine. Such an approach, tailored to the specifics of each family, can be effective in helping a family come to a place of acceptance about the impending death of their loved one.


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