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The Soul of Medicine

Spiritual Perspectives and Clinical Practice

edited by John R. Peteet, M.D., and Michael N. D'Ambra, M.D.

Publication Year: 2011

To what extent should spiritual information be part of patients’ medical assessments? How should physicians respond when patients refuse life-saving care on religious grounds? Should doctors pray with their patients? Questions such as these raise deeper ones about the goals of medicine and the nature of healing. In a set of engaging and candid essays, The Soul of Medicine explores the role and influence of spirituality in clinical practice, professionalism, and medical education. The contributors to this volume approach this topic from their own spiritual perspectives—Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, New Age/Eclectic, secular, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientist. Their thought-provoking essays produce rich insights not only into the needs of patients who share these same world views but also into how spirituality influences the practice of medicine. When their own spiritual issues arise in medical practice, physicians rely on their professionalism, ethics, and education. To better understand how various world views are incorporated into clinical work, doctors must ask themselves—as these contributors have—a series of important questions: What insights about life and healing does your faith provide? How does it challenge or reinforce contemporary medicine? How do you assess and address spirituality in clinical practice? How do your own beliefs influence your interactions with patients? The Soul of Medicine encourages medical students and practitioners to recognize the spiritual dimensions of medicine, to consider how these dimensions inform their own education and practice, and to be compassionate about their patients’—and their own—religious beliefs.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

List of Contributors

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Biomedicine continues to contribute importantly to the treatment of disease, but there is widespread concern that medicine may be losing its soul. As technology, commercialization, and government and insurer bureaucracies impinge on the doctor-patient relationship, both patient satisfaction and physician morale have declined. At the same time interest has grown in the spiritual dimension of medicine and health...


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1. Spirituality and Biomedicine: A History of Harmony and Discord

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pp. 3-22

In the 1642 treatise Religio Medici (The Religion of a Doctor), the English physician Sir Thomas Browne remarked on the public acceptance of the medieval proverb “Tres medici, duo athei” (Where there are three physicians, there are two atheists). He refl ected on the belief that study of the natural world and secondary causes turned “the devotion of many unto atheism” (Greenhill 1898, p. 34)...

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2. Approaching Spirituality in Clinical Practice

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pp. 23-44

Richard Sloan, an outspoken critic of the “religion, spirituality, and medicine” movement, has argued that the integration of faith and medicine is based on poor science, contributes to the unethical medical practice, and is corrosive of religion (2006). Sloan raises important objections requiring thoughtful dialogue among the medical and religious communities...


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3. Judaism

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pp. 47-58

Oath-taking enjoys a long and rich history in human culture. In ancient times, oaths were among the most serious commitments people could make to each other. In ancient Hebrew culture, oaths between Abraham and his slave (Genesis 24:9) and between Joseph and his father, Jacob (Genesis 47:9), exemplify verbal oaths undertaken with physical expressions that underscored their...

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4. Hinduism

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pp. 59-78

Hinduism is as much a philosophy and a way of life as a religion. As such, it has a tremendous impact on the way millions of people worldwide view health, wellness, and science. It is the oldest living religion, dating back 10,000 years, according to astronomical verification of dates of events in scripture (Pandit 1993). There is no single founder of Hinduism; rather, it is inspired by divine revelation and is the product of the accumulated...

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5. Islam

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pp. 79-95

Islam is a monotheistic religion that was established in 610 CE by the Prophet Muhammad. Currently, more than 1.2 billion people identify as Muslims. Forty percent of Muslims are Asians originating from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and the Philippines; 20 percent are from the Middle East (including non-Arab countries Iran and Turkey)...

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6. Christianity

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pp. 96-114

Since its inception in the early first century CE, Christianity has become a major global religion. It encompasses a heterogeneous group of cultures, geographical regions, and social strata; adherents now constitute nearly one-third of the world’s population. Within this vast network of forms, beliefs, and practices, Christianity is essentially a historical religion centering on the affirmation of God’s revelation through Jesus Christ...

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7. Buddhism

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pp. 115-132

A Buddhist responds to illness, change, and death with an integrated philosophy and practice that is instructive to care providers in all healing traditions. The best way to understand a Buddhist is to gain an appreciation of how Buddhists practice mindfulness and compassion. Insight meditation, Zen meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction (see the appendix to this chapter), and Tibetan Vajrayana are a few of the choices available...

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8. Eclectic Spirituality

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pp. 133-151

A significant and growing minority of Americans describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Their eclectic spirituality (ES) traces the alternate route, the scenic path to the ineffable. The term eclectic implies “ideal selection from many sources.” Thus, ES involves ongoing study of history’s many belief systems, free of the dictates of any. Followers prefer the open-ended...

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9. Christian Science

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pp. 152-170

Genesis 1, the beginning of the Christian and Jewish Scripture, states that Spirit alone has created all and made everything good and that Spirit made each of us, man or woman, in the divine image and likeness. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, found this to be a scientific basis for prayer, enabling anyone to prove that health is our natural state...

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10. Jehovah’s Witnesses

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pp. 171-187

Few religious groups have proved as disquieting to contemporary society as Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are a number of paradoxes: • Although they are recognized as a law-abiding and peace-loving people, Witnesses have over the past century found themselves imprisoned for their convictions in virtually every part of the world. • Though biblical beliefs permeate their approach to life, they hold that religions, oft en under the guise of spiritual motivation, have proved a negative force in the world...

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11. A Secular Perspective

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pp. 188-196

For many of us, the scientific method (hypothesis formation, objective observation, and reproducible experiments) is the most constructive and fruitful way to address the human experience, particularly health and wellness. The spiritual aspects of illness can be considered equivalent to the psychological, sociological and behavioral aspects of medicine, all of which can be accounted for by using the scientific method...


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12. Ethical Considerations and Implications for Professionalism

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pp. 199-224

We have seen in preceding chapters how spirituality can shape the values of physicians, and how they understand their role. In this chapter we consider the implications of differing spiritual and secular perspectives for several questions that are oft en contested: the basis of professionalism, the relationship between a physician’s personal and professional identity...

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13. Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy

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pp. 225-236

The earliest human records document provisions for spiritual and religious care. Health and well-being have been intimately intertwined throughout history, often in communal life and frequently in religious belief and practices. Religious leaders were originally the arbiters of practices directed to address both physical and spiritual well-being, and religious beliefs and forms provided the contexts for undergirding this relationship. Whereas most early cultures shared the perspective that body, mind, and spirit...

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14. Teaching and Learning at the Interface of Medicine and Spirituality

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pp. 237-255

As the preceding chapters indicate, interest in the traditionally important role of spirituality in medicine waned with the 20th-century development of a scientific approach to medicine and scientific dominance of the biomedical model. This chapter explores the recent resurgence of interest in spirituality in medicine, primarily at the level of medical school training. Historically, medical school training has been a critical force in determining the type of practitioner that physicians become....


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pp. 256-260

E-ISBN-13: 9781421403953
E-ISBN-10: 1421403951
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421402994
Print-ISBN-10: 1421402998

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2011