Spirituality and Religion in Modern Medicine

Article excerpt

Byline: Darpan Kaur. Singh, Shaunak. Ajinkya

Man has always yearned for a higher sense of belonging in life. Since ancient ages, human beings have tried to examine and evaluate the relationship between spirituality, religion and medicine. The interface of spirituality, quality of life and mental health is fascinating and sublime. Religion and spirituality play an essential role in the care giving of patients with terminal illnesses and chronic medical conditions. Patient's needs, desires and perspectives on religion and spirituality should be addressed in standard clinical care. Ongoing research in medical education and curriculum design points towards the inclusion of competence, communication and training in spirituality. There are structured and reliable instruments available for assessing the relationship between spirituality, religion and health in research settings. Intervention based scientific studies in the arena of spirituality and modern medicine are needed. Further research should be directed towards making modern medicine more holistic.

Introduction

Spirituality is an important determinant of physical, emotional, and social health. [sup][1] Spirituality today is an essential aspect of health care that is often not adequately addressed in modern-day medical practice. [sup][2] Interest in the relationship between spirituality, religion, and clinical care has increased in the last 15 years. Religions often provide patients with specific moral guidance about a variety of medical issues and prescribe rituals that are important to patients. [sup][3]

Historical evolution to current modern-day medical practice

At the start of modern medicine, the ancient holistic paradigm of healthcare that was present in many cultures gradually became replaced by a dualistic approach that separated cure for the body from care for the soul. However, something went wrong. Ironically, the specialized and technical approach of medicine failed in its promise of holistic healing, compassion, and care. Patients always want to be approached as a person who is suffering, not as a faceless individual with malfunctioning organs. [sup][4] Caring for the spiritual aspect of the patient can provide the physician with a more in-depth understanding of the patient and his needs. [sup][5] There are ongoing controversies regarding integration of religion and spirituality into routine psychiatric practice. Disclosure to the patient by the psychiatrist of their own religious beliefs in the context of treatment is seen by some as potentially harmful. [sup][6] The search for meaning in life is a universal phenomenon selective to human beings. Over the last few decades, there has been an ever increasing body of evidence in the arenas of spirituality, mental health, and psychotherapy. It is necessary that mental health professionals become familiarized with these concepts and be able to correlate the spiritual as well as psychological needs of their clients. [sup][7]

Interface between spirituality, quality of life, and mental health

Lucchetti et al. evaluated the relationship between spirituality, mental health, and quality of life in elderly outpatients. They found that spirituality is related to significantly less depressive symptoms, better quality of life, less cognitive impairment, and less perceived pain. They suggested that clinicians should consider taking a spiritual history and ensure that spiritual needs are addressed among older patients in rehabilitation settings. [sup][8] Shah et al. explored the relationship between spirituality and quality of life in patients with residual schizophrenia and found that spirituality and religiosity had an important influence on overall quality of life of patients with schizophrenia. They suggested that in addition to pharmacological and non-pharmacological management for schizophrenia, clinicians should also explore spirituality and encourage their patients to follow their religious practices and spiritual beliefs. …