Interventions to enhance the spiritual aspects of dying

J Palliat Med. 2005;8 Suppl 1:S103-15. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2005.8.s-103.


In recent years, medical and allied health publications have begun to address various topics on spirituality. Scholars have posited numerous definitions of spirituality and wrestled with the notion of spiritual pain and suffering. Researchers have examined the relationship between spirituality and health and explored, among other topics, patients' perceptions of their spiritual needs, particularly at the end of life. This paper summarizes salient evidence pertaining to spirituality, dying patients, their health care providers, and family or informal caregivers. We examine the challenging issue of how to define spirituality, and provide a brief overview of the state of evidence addressing interventions that may enhance or bolster spiritual aspects of dying. There are many pressing questions that need to be addressed within the context of spiritual issues and end-of-life care. Efforts to understand more fully the constructs of spiritual well-being, transcendence, hope, meaning, and dignity, and to correlate them with variables and outcomes such as quality of life, pain control, coping with loss, and acceptance are warranted. Researchers should also frame these issues from both faith-based and secular perspectives, differing professional viewpoints, and in diverse cultural settings. In addition, longitudinal studies will enable patients' changing experiences and needs to be assessed over time. Research addressing spiritual dimensions of personhood offers an opportunity to expand the horizons of contemporary palliative care, thereby decreasing suffering and enhancing the quality of time remaining to those who are nearing death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Empirical Research
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Pastoral Care
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Spirituality*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / psychology
  • Terminally Ill / psychology