The witches' brew of spirituality and medicine

Ann Behav Med. 2002 Winter;24(1):74-6. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2401_09.


Recent proposals to join spirituality and medicine are facile and ill defined. The notion that physicians have the time or training to make assessments and recommendations about spirituality is misguided. Whenever a physician demonstrates personal caring for a patient, the healing process is likely enhanced, and in that sense, physicians often promote the spirituality of the patient. However, recent proposals to extend the physician's task to that of assessing religion and directing the patient toward approved forms of spirituality are inappropriate. The languages of religion and science are radically different. The cultural body-mind split will not be solved by such simplistic solutions as having physicians endorse spirituality, which will result only in denigration of both medicine and religion. Physicians are encouraged to rely on clinically trained ministers for assistance in understanding the patient's state of mind or spirit and its possible effects on the course of illness and health.

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Health Status
  • Humanism
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Religion and Medicine*