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The Spiritual Event of Serious Illness 

The Spiritual Event of Serious Illness
Chapter:
The Spiritual Event of Serious Illness
Author(s):

Michael J. Balboni

, and Tracy A. Balboni

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199325764.003.0002
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date: 19 August 2019

This chapter explores patients’ personal accounts of spirituality and illness within four Boston hospitals, finding that the majority of patients consider spirituality and religion important to their illness experience. It highlights several interlocking themes that explain how religion and spirituality operate within a person’s personal experience. One key theme, spiritual transformation, highlights a shift that takes place for many patients within illness. Almost all patients, as they stare at the reality of their own mortality, find that our cultural camouflage of death disappears, and this serves as a catalyst for patients to directly consider and weigh spiritual issues. The Boston patient sample offers a “thick” account of patient experience within a metro area that is far less religious than many other places in the United States. Patient data confirm the claim that, for nearly all, illness emerges as a spiritual event of great importance.

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