In this article researchers agreed that “appropriate spiritual support must be available to all patients who desire it, the same way we provide them with a meal and a warm blanket.” Indeed, we drew a similar conclusion in our article. They disagree; however, research will not help us understand the effects of spiritual factors on physical and mental health for several reasons.
First, many clinicians practice in the biomedical model in which physical evidence is paramount and psychosocial and spiritual factors seem less relevant. Nevertheless, patient care is much more than disease management; it involves addressing the needs of the whole patient. Methodologically sound research informs physicians of the roles psychosocial and spiritual factors play in health and how these factors should be addressed in clinical practice.
Second, numerous studies have found that fewer physicians than patients describe themselves as religious or spiritual. Hence, physicians may underestimate the importance of spiritual matters to patients and may not share researchers view of spiritual support as a “basic need.” Research may convince skeptical clinicians of the importance of spiritual matters to patients, as well as the importance of discerning and supporting their spiritual needs. Indeed, many studies have shown patient spirituality to be an important source of coping during illness.
Third, this investigation questions what clinicians would do if studies of religious involvement demonstrated adverse health outcomes.