Interest in the relationship between spirituality, religion, and clinical care has increased in the

last 15 years, but clinicians need more concrete guidance about this topic. This article defines

spirituality and religion, identifies the fundamental spiritual issues that serious illness raises for

patients, and argues that physicians have a moral obligation to address patients’ spiritual

concerns. Religions often provide patients with specific moral guidance about a variety of medical

issues and prescribe rituals that are important to patients. Religious coping can be both positive

and negative, and it can impact patient care. This article provides concrete advice about taking

a spiritual history, ethical boundaries, whether to pray with patients, and when to refer patients

to chaplains or to their own personal clergy. From Publisher