Relationships between Medicine and Spirituality


This review aims at analysing the links between medicine and spirituality, two seemingly distant concepts. Medicine at its beginnings was imbued with rituals that invoked the intervention of supernatural powers, as man were unable to treat diseases and struggled to bear the suffering caused by them and the fragility of their own bodies. Today, in the post-genomic era, medicine has gained great benefits from new and extraordinary scientific and technological achievements, permitting sophisticated therapeutic and diagnostic approaches, which assure cures not previously possible. Even considering these great accomplishments in medicine and technology, it should be borne in mind that diseases not only induce bodily changes in sufferers, but also affect their emotional state and social interactions. Illness, especially when serious and in presence of a poor prognosis, raises profound questions around the meaning of life, affections, suffering and death. In the last few decades scientists, doctors, theologians, psychologists and others, in considering these questions, have emphasized the importance of spirituality as a relevant factor in the care of the sick and their illnesses.

Drawing from some thoughts expressed in the book, “When the Breath Becomes Air,” authored by the physician Paul Kalanithi, we claim that spirituality should be perceived as an important contributing factor in the therapeutic path. Our aim is to deepen the meaning of spirituality, differentiating it from religion, faith and mysticism, and to understand how it should be integrated with post-genomic medicine to enhance its positive aspects and effects.

Keywords: Spirituality, Medicine, communication, patients, physicians

Sorry, this entry is only available in Italian.


Nel libro “Quando il respiro si fa aria” il medico Paul Kalanithi, un neurochirurgo morto all’età di 37 anni per un tumore incurabile ai polmoni, narrando la sua esperienza di medico e paziente, tratta del rapporto che l’essere umano ha con la malattia e la sofferenza (1). Come medico era stato sempre sensibile al dolore dei pazienti e dei loro cari ed esplicitamente dichiarava che “l’eccellenza tecnica non è abbastanza”. 

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