Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Religion and spirituality in medicine: friend or foe?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 13 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m106
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}
    Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielSokol9

Religion may be profoundly important to some patients but is not a trump card

In December 2019 I attended a symposium in the Vatican on religion and medical ethics, hosted by the World Innovation Summit for Health and the Pontifical Academy for Life. Among the speakers was an archbishop, the chief rabbi of Rome, and a Qatari scholar on Islamic ethics. The speakers presented their faith’s perspective on ethics and palliative care.

A panel session discussed whether there was any common ground among the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish approaches to palliative care. The answers noted dignity, compassion and humility, a God-centric world view, and the need to adopt a holistic approach to care that was sensitive to the patient’s spiritual needs. Such was the warmth created by the answers that it seemed quite …

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