brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2023;107(2):116

Author disclosure: No relevant financial relationships.

To the Editor: I read with interest the article by Dr. Kuckel and colleagues.1 I understand and agree with the authors' stated intent that it is important that clinicians explore what beliefs give “patients a sense of greater purpose in life,” whether through a connection with God or “nature, energy, art, music, and humankind.”1 However, I am concerned that in current colloquial discourse, the words they propose to assess these connections—spirituality and faith—are too closely tied to religious creed to be universally welcoming.

The words “meaning” or “meaningful” are not mentioned in their suggested approaches, as in “What gives you meaning in life?” Such words imply greater inclusivity and can, when responsive to patients' replies and respectful of their points of view, open the door to the questions the authors specifically endorse in their recommended assessment tools.

By focusing on spirituality and faith as informationally oriented objects of investigative attention, the authors also fail to highlight the therapeutic power that can result from encounters between clinicians and patients. This cocreation of shared presence has everything to do with the in-the-moment expression and valuation of human vulnerability, dignity, interdependence, resilience, and even transcendence—all characteristics of spirituality and faith, broadly considered—and may offer a worthy path to holistic healing and meaningful growth on both sides of the stethoscope.24

Editor's Note: This letter was sent to the authors of “The Spiritual Assessment,” who declined to reply.

Email letter submissions to Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors. Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Letters may be edited to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Copyright © 2023 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.