Intended for healthcare professionals


Spirituality and clinical care

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1434

Spiritual values and skills are increasingly recognised as necessary aspects of clinical care

  1. Larry Culliford, consultant psychiatrist (
  1. South Downs Health NHS Trust, Brighton Community Mental Health Centre, Brighton BN1 3RJ

    Medicine, once fully bound up with religion, retains a sacred dimension for many. Differing religious beliefs and practices can be divisive. Spirituality, however, links the deeply personal with the universal and is essentially unifying. Without boundaries, it is difficult to define, but its impact can be measured.1 This is important because, although attendance in churches is low and falling,w1 people increasingly (76% in 2000) admit to spiritual and religious experiences.2

    The World Health Organization reports: “Until recently the health professions have largely followed a medical model, which seeks to treat patients by focusing on medicines and surgery, and gives less importance to beliefs and to faith—in healing, in the physician and in the doctor-patient relationship. This reductionist or mechanistic view of patients is no longer satisfactory. Patients and physicians have begun to realise the value of elements such as faith, hope, and compassion in the healing process.”w2 In one study, 93% of patients with cancer said that religion helped sustain their hopes.3 Such high figures deserve our attention.

    A signal publication offers a critical, systematic, and comprehensive analysis of empirical research, examining relations between religion or …

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