Why Doctors Should Start Taking Your Past Spiritual History

Nikhil Barot: The evidence suggests that physicians might do well to take a Past Spiritual History, similar to the Past Medical and Past Surgical Histories that are a routine part of patient-doctor encounters. A Past Spiritual History represents a biopsychosocial-spiritual approach to understanding illness, which may not only “enrich the dialogue between patients and health providers,” as one 2006 study concluded, but also inform what treatments are acceptable within a given patient’s system of values. “For many people, this spiritual history unfolds within the context of an explicit religious tradition,” wrote Christina Puchalski, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, and colleagues, in the Journal of Palliative Care. “For others it unfolds as a set of philosophical principles or significant experiences.”

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