Meeting the Patient's Spiritual and Religious Needs

Armen Hareyan's picture

In addressing a patient's spiritual needs during cancer care, medical staff will take their lead from the wishes of the patient.

Spirituality and religion are very personal decisions. Patients can expect doctors and caregivers to respect their religious and spiritual beliefs and concerns. A cancer patient who relies on spirituality to cope with the disease may count on medical staff to respect that practice with support and referrals to appropriate spiritual or religious resources. Patients who do not choose to have spiritual issues addressed during cancer care may also count on medical staff to respect and support their views.

Doctors and caregivers will try to respond to their patients' concerns, but may avoid taking part in patients' religious rituals or debating religious beliefs.


Doctors may address a patient's spiritual needs in setting goals and planning treatment.

Doctors may address a patient's spiritual needs in the following ways:

  • Identifying goals for care and making medical decisions that are consistent with the patient's spiritual and/or religious views and which also enable the doctor to maintain the integrity of his or her own spiritual and/or religious views.
  • Respectfully supporting the patient's use of spiritual coping during the illness.
  • Encouraging patients to speak with their clergy or spiritual leader.
  • Referring the patient to a hospital chaplain, appropriate religious leader, or support group that addresses spiritual issues during illness.


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