Ethical boundaries of spiritual care.

How to address spiritual issues

In an age that features technologically sophisticated medical interventions for disease, patients still desire spiritually nurturing health care.

Attention to patients’ spiritual needs and resources in the clinical setting may raise a number of ethical questions.

Five ethical guidelines are offered as illustrations of norms that respect patients’ preferences and preserve health care professionals’ integrity. These are;

Respectful care of the patient

1. In order to provide respectful care, health care professionals should seek a basic understanding of patients’ spiritual needs, resources, and preferences

2. Respect for the patient requires that health care professionals follow the patient’s expressed wishes regarding spiritual care

3. Health care professionals should neither prescribe spiritual practices nor urge patients to relinquish religious beliefs or practices

Preserving personal and professional integrity

4. Health care professionals who care for the spiritual needs of patients should seek to understand their own spirituality

5. Participation in spiritual care should be consonant with professional integrity

Conclusion

In an age that features technologically sophisticated medical interventions, patients still desire spiritually nurturing health care. The value of providing whole-person care should lead health care professionals to offer care not only for physical needs but also for the needs of the human spirit in search of meaning.

Guided by ethical reflection, health care professionals may better serve patients who desire spiritually nurturing health care. The five guidelines we have stated are offered as illustrations of what respectful care requires of caregivers with integrity.

Research; Gerald R Winslow and Betty J Wehtje-Winslow. Ethical boundaries of spiritual care. Medical Journal of Australia 2007; 186 (10): S63-S66


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