Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Discussing Spiritual Matters with Your Doctor

I subscribe to a very interesting periodical called Science and Theology News. In the October 2004 issue I found a report on the subject of discussing spiritual issues with one's physician. Here are some highlights:

Patients wanting doctors to ask about spiritual issues is not a new issue. However, a new study shows that 91 percent of patients in outpatient sites in Ohio still report their doctors have never asked about spirituality.

Gary McCord, a researcher at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, and his team found that 83 percent of respondents wished to discuss their spiritual beliefs with their doctors, no matter how patients defined the word "spiritual".

"I think the most important thing is that patients want their physicians to provide patience, compassion and hope," said McCord....

"A useful future study might be looking at the 17 percent that don't want to discuss spirituality and why they don't," said McCord. "Maybe a person has another outlet for discussing these things, and maybe they'd rather do it there."

I agree. It would be a very interesting study. I would want to know if the reluctance is about not valuing spirituality or if it's perhaps about a lack of trust between doctor and patient. And if there were truly a belief that such a discussion is inappropriate, I would want to know the background to that conviction. As we learn more and more about the mind-body-spirit connection we are increasingly aware of how important it is not to compartmentalize the different aspects of ourselves. Meditation is a powerful tool for experiencing all the aspects of ourselves together. Because meditation is "knowing what's happening while it's happening no matter what it is", we are less likely to tune out the mind and spirit while attending to the body. All the evidence points to the fact that our overall health depends on a true integration of all three.

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