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Physicians and Patient Spirituality: Professional Boundaries, Competency, and Ethics

Stephen G. Post, PhD; Christina M. Puchalski, MD, MS; and David B. Larson, MD, MSPH
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C.; and Duke University Medical Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Requests for Single Reprints: Stephen G. Post, PhD, Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4976.

Requests To Purchase Bulk Reprints (minimum, 100 copies): the Reprints Coordinator; phone, 215-351-2657; e-mail, reprints@mail.acponline.org.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Post: Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4976.

Dr. Puchalski: National Institute for Healthcare Research/George Washington University, 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 908, Rockville, MD 20852.

Dr. Larson: National Institute for Healthcare Research, 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 908, Rockville, MD 20852.

Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(7):578-583. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-7-200004040-00010
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Clinical studies are beginning to clarify how spirituality and religion can contribute to the coping strategies of many patients with severe, chronic, and terminal conditions. The ethical aspects of physician attention to the spiritual and religious dimensions of patients' experiences of illness require review and discussion. Should the physician discuss spiritual issues with his or her patients? What are the boundaries between the physician and patient regarding these issues? What are the professional boundaries between the physician and the chaplain? This article examines the physician–patient relationship and medical ethics at a time when researchers are beginning to appreciate the spiritual aspects of coping with illness.


ethics ; spirituality





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