According to Arete (a research development program of the University of Chicago), the U of C has received a huge grant from the John Templeton Foundation for the “spiritual renewal” of physicians at our hospital:
A $2.6-million, three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation will allow Farr Curlin, MD, and Daniel Sulmasy, MD, co-directors of the Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago, to create a Clinical Scholars Program designed to provide the essential infrastructure for the spiritual renewal of the medical profession.
The Program will begin by recruiting eight University of Chicago faculty to help take the spiritual “pulse” of medicine by researching the relationship between professional satisfaction and the spiritual lives of physicians.
“Medicine is a sacred practice,” says Curlin, associate professor of medicine and associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. “We’ll probe how physicians relate their work to the religious traditions they hold and how they could see their work as having moral and spiritual meaning.”
It’s worse than dire, for it’s meant not to use faith or spirituality to help patients heal, but to help the doctors heal patients.
Over the years, there has been much scholarship on the impact of religion on patients and health care outcomes but virtually none on the spirituality of the practice of medicine, i.e., the religious characteristics of physicians and how physicians’ religious commitments shape the clinical encounter. This has been seen as a threat to medicine’s scientific principles “because it introduces personal and private elements,” Curlin says.
Nevertheless, religion and spirituality are “inescapably” linked to how a physician practices, Curlin says. “In fact, spiritual beliefs and traditions are among the best resources that physicians can and should draw upon.” . .
I don’t think so. The best resources physicians should draw upon are their training, their tools, and their array of medicines, as well as their fellow specialists. Spiritual beliefs and training rank down around number 143.
Most physicians endorse the importance of addressing spiritual concerns of patients, particularly in the context of life, death and serious illness, says Sulmasy, professor of medicine and ethics and associate director of the MacLean Center. “Physicians and ministers face some of the same questions, but we think medicine can be vigorously scientific as well as deeply spiritual.”
And this is the worst part:
In addition to exploring such issues, the grant will help develop a new field, the spirituality of medicine. “We’ll create and support a community of scholars with training in religion and medical science who could become leaders in this new interdisciplinary field,” Sulmasy says. “And there’s no better place to do this than the University of Chicago with top medical and divinity schools.”
Notice how “spirituality” has morphed into “religion” here. They’re going to involve the Divinity School!
We already know that spiritual healing and intercessory prayer don’t work, so all that’s left is to let patients have access to ministers, rabbis, and the like when they’re in the hospital. Wait. . . they already do that!
All this program will amount to is a bunch of money poorly spent on trying to infuse religion into medicine—and this at a scientific institution. Why not investigate goat sacrifice and other burnt offerings?
During treatment, doctors need to deep-six their faith, if they have any, and concentrate on science. Sure they should regard their patients as suffering and fearful human beings, and treat them accordingly, but that’s empathy, not religion or even spirituality. And by all means let physicians be trained in how to be kind and empathic toward their patients. But for crying out loud, leave the nonexistent sky fairies to the experts: the pastors and rabbis who infest hospitals, offering false hope to the ill. And keep the Divinity School out of it. What do those people know about healing?
This kind of project reminds me of the NIH’s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which has been pretty much an abject failure. (As the old joke goes, “What do you call alternative medicine that works? Answer: Medicine.”)
The last thing my university needs is a bunch of Templeton flaks pocketing even more money in the service of an ill-conceived project. Just think how many lives three million dollars could cure had it been invested in, say, cardiac bypass machines or simply additional care for the poor of the South Side. This grant will not, I think, save a single life. It will merely enrich already-affluent physicians, or promote the careers of misguided academics. Imagine giving money to medical care itself rather than to improving the spiritual lot and pastoral practice of doctors!
More Templeton money down the drain.