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Religious Perspectives on the Clinical Encounter

MEDC 30030 / RETH 30030

Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Aasim I. Padela, MD, MSc

Course Description:

Medicine is a moral practice, and suffering, illness, and dying are among the most deeply challenging of all human experiences. It is not surprising then that religious and spiritual traditions inform the ways many patients and clinicians understand, navigate, cope with, and make decisions related to illness. These traditions are a significant source of personal identity for some clinicians and also serve as a moral framework through which groups of patients and providers address challenges in healthcare. A burgeoning literature on the religious characteristics of clinicians delineates how clinicians’ religious traditions and commitments can shape their clinical practices (Program on Medicine and Religion). Drawing from this literature and the primary course text, Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine (Michael Balboni, PhD & Tracy A.

Balboni, MD, Oxford University Press, 2018), this course will provoke learners to consider the religious and spiritual dimensions of the clinician-patient relationship, while covering broad concepts relevant to the intersection of the clinical encounter with religion (the Abrahamic traditions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). Students will engage the course text’s primary argument that contemporary medicine with its secular-sacred divide is suffering from a form of collective spiritual sickness—namely, that depersonalizing, social forces through the market, technology, and legal-bureaucratic powers are reducing clinicians to tiny cogs in an unstoppable machine. This course will explore these hostilities threatening medicine and offer a path forward for the partnership of modern medicine and religion/spirituality. Guest speakers will also enrich the course by offering a personal perspective on the ways their religious traditions inform their approach to the clinical encounter.

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