According to physician and philosopher Daniel Sulmasy postmodern thought, in which philosophical and theological universals are questioned and ethics is left up for grabs, has sickened the doctor-patient relationship. But the ill, he claims, are rebelling—they seek a medicine that treats them as persons, full of dignity, along with a renewed form of health care that does not abandon the goods of science, but also does not eschew the mystical. Medical school curricula are evidence of this emerging condition: nearly all schools require courses in spirituality and health care. But how should health care workers view this development? How should they think about soul medicine alongside scientific medicine? How might this affect their practice?
Sulmasy, an internist and Franciscan friar with a Ph.D. (from Georgetown under Ed Pellegrino), introduces physicians and medical students to the basic issues in spirituality and medicine. In Part I he looks at the nature of illness and healing, sketching the history of Western heath care and Judeo-Christian thought to provide guidance for todays health care community. In Part II he examines the recent rash of empirical studies about spirituality and patient care, trying to separate the legitimate from the downright kooky. In Part III, he takes up spiritual questions that arise in the care of patients at the close of life. Here he introduces the reader to several patients and cases, reiterating his conviction that for physicians attending to the spiritual needs of their patients ought to be viewed not just as a moral option, but as a moral obligation.