Physicians and patient spirituality: professional boundaries, competency, and ethics

Ann Intern Med. 2000 Apr 4;132(7):578-83. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-7-200004040-00010.


Clinical studies are beginning to clarify how spirituality and religion can contribute to the coping strategies of many patients with severe, chronic, and terminal conditions. The ethical aspects of physician attention to the spiritual and religious dimensions of patients' experiences of illness require review and discussion. Should the physician discuss spiritual issues with his or her patients? What are the boundaries between the physician and patient regarding these issues? What are the professional boundaries between the physician and the chaplain? This article examines the physician-patient relationship and medical ethics at a time when researchers are beginning to appreciate the spiritual aspects of coping with illness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Empirical Research
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Social Values
  • Spiritualism*
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology