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The Diversity Minute

EhmanDid you know…? Patients often draw upon spiritual/religious resources as they cope with illness and treatment. This may be of particular importance in circumstances of palliative care. A growing body of research links spiritual care with patient satisfaction, quality-of-life, and medical decision-making that can avoid extraordinary and costly interventions at the end of life [Cancer 117(23):5383-91]. Moreover, research indicates that patients tend to welcome a carefully worded inquiry about whether their spiritual/religious beliefs may affect their health care decisions. One of the most widely cited studies on this topic was conducted here at Penn [Arch Int Med 159(15):1803-6]. Nearly half of the patients queried in the study said their beliefs would influence their decisions if they were gravely ill, and two-thirds said that an inquiry from their provider would increase their trust in him/her.

While it is difficult to predict what spiritual/religious needs any one patient may have, special attention should be paid to expressions of spiritual distress, requests to contact the patient’s own religious group for ritual and pastoral support, concerns about modesty, and apprehensions about food and medications that could violate dietary and other rules of a faith tradition.

For more information, call PPMC’s Pastoral Care Department at x9490.

-Submitted by Rev. John W. Ehman MDiv, Chief Chaplain, PPMC Pastoral Care

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