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Where Is the Soul after Death? Do We Need to Ask?

John R. Peteet, MD
Volume: 105 Issue: 5 May, 2012

Abstract:

Caring for patients’ spiritual needs is an explicit goal of the young and growing specialty of palliative medicine. Although emerging literature describes the spiritual concerns of patients and how they prefer these be addressed,1 clinicians attempting to do so face a number of obstacles. These obstacles include inexperience, lack of training, an absence of consensus about definitions, and their own unresolved spiritual concerns. Compounding this are limitations of time and confusion about the boundaries of their role, of which the latter is often the most critical consideration. For example, physicians are more likely to appreciate the need to address their patients’ belief in miracles, which is interfering with the transition to comfort care, than to understand a reason to explore their patients’ beliefs about the fate of the soul after death.

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References:

1. Alcorn SR, Balboni MJ, Prigerson HG, et al. If God wanted me yesterday, I wouldn’t be here today: religious and spiritual themes in patients’ experiences of advanced cancer. J Palliat Med 2010; 13: 581–588.
 
2. Perkins HS, Cortez JD, Hazuda HP. Diversity of patients’ beliefs about the soul after death and their importance in palliative care. South Med J 2012; 105: 266–272.
 
3. Maltsberger JT, Buie DH. The devices of suicide—revenge, riddance, and rebirth. Int R Psycho-Anal 1980; 7: 61–72.
 
4. Klass D. Solace and immortality: bereaved parents’ continuing bond with their children. Death Stud 1993; 17: 343–369.

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