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August 17, 2015

Editor's Note: Doctors Fail to Address Patients’ Spiritual Needs by Dr ROBERT KLITZMAN, M.D

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In an article posted in the NYTimes by Dr ROBERT KLITZMAN, M.D on August 13, 2015
Dr Klitzman, MD comments:

"Eventually, my patient dying from cancer did speak with a chaplain. I noticed him visiting her one day as I walked by her door. I again spotted him two days later heading toward her door. The next morning, I thought that she looked calmer, more relieved than I’d seen her in weeks. She still had unremitting fevers and died a few months later, in that room. But the chaplain had helped her, I felt, in a way that I and medical treatment could not.

I still regret my silence with that patient, but have tried to learn from it. Doctors themselves do not have to be spiritual or religious, but they should recognize that for many patients, these issues are important, especially at life’s end. If doctors don’t want to engage in these conversations, they shouldn’t. Instead, a physician can simply say: “Some patients would like to have a discussion with someone here about spiritual issues; some patients wouldn’t. If you would like to, we can arrange for someone to talk with you.”

Unfortunately, countless patients feel uncomfortable broaching these topics with their doctors. And most physicians still never raise it.

Certainly this article must encourage Clinical Chaplains to become even more proactive within their institution and with physicians to be a vital member of the medical team to provide care and counseling in such heartbreaking situations.

Let's also hope that chaplains who are called upon in this role are well trained as clinical chaplains, equally versed in matters of faith and theology but equally true, and some times even more important, they have a solid and informed utilization of the social sciences in the field of counseling and psychotherapy along with a generous amount of self-understanding and use of self in the pastoral engagement. There must be a creative tension between both disciplines and utilization of self in clinical practice.

The recent critique of chaplains in their work with patients in similar situations as described by Dr Klitzman, Raymond Lawrence in recent published articles on the Pastoral Report, calls into question how well prepared are chaplains to enter into such a clinical arena with such patients.

Perry Miller, Editor
perrymiller@gmail.com

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at August 17, 2015 7:15 PM

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