Ethics Glossary


‘Spirituality’ has to do with the basis upon which patients’ lives have integrity and balance.  Being religious is a subset of (but not equivalent to) being spiritual.  Patients reveal their spiritual identity when they share their core ideas and life values and when they explain how they sustain these core ideas and values.  Attending to patients’ spiritual well-being has to do with minimizing the spiritual disturbance they are experiencing due to being in a hospital and/or due to injury/illness in order to maximize their ability to make decisions about their care.  It is crucial that patients have (or recover) sufficient balance and focus to communicate well (which requires listening carefully, thinking courageously, and speaking clearly) as they participate in decision-making about their care.  Patients who are spiritually distressed complicate the decision-making process and the management of their care.  They may have lost confidence, motivation, hope.  They may appear despondent or panicky.  They may deny the reality of their situation.  Some spiritually distressed patients are despairing, immobilized, depressed, apathetic, fatalistic.  Their spiritual distress may surpass in urgency their injury or disease.