Objective: Patients at the end of their life typically endure
physical, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual challenges. Although
physicians assume a clearly defined role in approaching the physical
aspects of terminal illness, the responsibility for helping their
patients' spiritual adaptation is also important.
Methods: This article (1) describes the terms and definitions
that have clinical utility in assessing the spiritual needs of dying
patients, (2) reviews the justifications that support physicians assuming
an active role in addressing the spiritual needs of their patients, and
(3) reviews clinical tools that provide physicians with a structured
approach to the assessment and treatment of spiritual distress.
Results: This review suggests that physicians can and should
be equipped to play a key role in relieving suffering at the end of
Significance of results: Physicians can help their patients
achieve a sense of completed purpose and peace.