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What is the role of faith and spirituality in medicine?

Michael S. Galindo
Internal Medicine

Faith and spirituality are important to wellness throughout peoples' lives. Faith gives us joy, meaning, direction, and deep connections to other people as well as to the divine. Spirituality is also deeply individual and can change throughout life. Whatever one's spiritual journey is like in life, spirituality takes on special meaning for people and their families as they struggle with serious illnesses and approach the end of their lives.

In the practice of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, we recognize that as a patient's illness progresses, curative medical treatment will become less and less effective. As these treatments become less effective (and therefore less important), the focus on the spiritual needs of the patient becomes more important. Attention to spirituality in the face of serious illness can relieve suffering, build connections with others, provide hope and meaning, and prepare a person for what comes next. At the very end of life, spirituality is often the only helpful treatment that caregivers can provide.

It is always appropriate to ask how building yourself up spiritually can improve your life and your chances of overcoming illness. Doctors should readily embrace the parallel role that a person's faith can play in medical care.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.