Let’s get spiritual.

Religion: it’s one of the topics we are taught to avoid in polite dinner conversation. But the fact is that it remains a vital social component for the majority of our patients--especially at the end of life. In fact, religious practices are associated with decreased mortality in a dose-dependent manner. We don’t hold back when asking about illegal drug use or unsafe sexual practices during clinic visits, so what ties our tongues when it comes to broaching spirituality? This week’s viewpoint in JAMA explores the far-reaching positive impact of an incorporation of spirituality into medical practices. And when it comes to caring for patients with advanced or terminal cancer, risk factors arguably become much less important than the very lens through which a patient views the meaning of her life...and death. So maybe it’s time to re-evaluate why asking a question as simple as “Do you have a faith or spirituality that’s important to you?” has become more uncomfortable than “Do you have sex with men, women or both..?”

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