What Should Physicians and Chaplains Do When a Patient Believes God Wants Him to Suffer?
AMA Journal of Ethics, July 2018
When physicians encounter a patient who gives religious reasons for wanting to suffer, physicians should maintain their commitment to the patient's health while making room for religiously informed understandings of suffering and respecting the patient's authority to refuse medically indicated interventions. Respecting the patient can include challenging the patient's reasoning, and physicians can decline to participate in interventions that they believe contradict their professional commitments. Chaplains likewise should both support and possibly respectfully challenge a patient in instances that involve desire to suffer for religious reasons, and physicians should draw on chaplains' expertise in these situations to attend to the patient's spiritual concerns. Finally, conversations involving spiritual and existential suffering might include members of the patient's religious community when the patient is open to this option.
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