religion spirituality healthcare and ethics

This seminar series will explore the role that religion and spirituality play in patients' and family members' understanding and experience of health and healthcare and how religion and spirituality are addressed in the healthcare setting.  We will explore how spiritual and religious beliefs contribute to patients' understanding of health, illness and healing, affect decision making about health and contribute to coping, distress and healing.  Additionally, becuase many patients require family members to make decisions, we will also explore how frameworks of health and illness affect the family.  A medical ethics framework will be used to explore how clinicians incorporate their own beliefs as well as patient/family beliefs into clinical care.

photo Amber comerAmber Comer; Assistant Professor IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; Department of Health Sciences; IUPUI;

photo alexia torkeAlexia Torke; Associate Professor of Medicine; IU School of Medicine; IUPUI;

Seminar Events:

Alexia Torke and Amber Comer

Seminar Session Details:

*All Seminars will be at Woody's Library Restaurant 40 E. Main Street Carmel, IN from 6-8pm.  Please email Sarah Rush, to express your interest.  Books and dinner will be provided.

Session 1:  The Place of Religion and Spirituality in Healthcare

Thursday, April 20

  • Introduction to Medical Ethics: What major principles or ethical frameworks guide clinical medical ethics? What does this contribute to our understanding of religion and spirituality?
  • What is the place of religion and spirituality in healthcare delivery?


Koenig HG. Spirituality in Patient Care. 3rd ed. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2013


Chp 1: Why Include Spirituality?

Chp 2 How to include spirituality

Session 2: Organizations and Religion

Thursday, May 25

  • How do religious and spiritual beliefs, experiences and traditions shape healthcare institutions and healthcare delivery?
  • Do religious institutions and secular institutions differ in the role and delivery of healthcare?

Readings:  Craig, D.M. (2014). Health care as a social good : religious values and American democracy. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.    

Chap 2: Health Care as a Public Right
Chap 3: Health Care as a Social Good
Chap 5:  Assessing Market-Driven Reforms:  Economy without Solidarity

Session 3: Patients, Families and Medical Decision Making

June 22

  • How do religious beliefs influence major decisions, especially at the beginning and end of life?
  • How to chaplains and others provide spiritual support and/or guidance to patients and families in the healthcare setting?

Guest Speaker: The Rev. Beth Newton Watson, M.Div., BCC, is Director of Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Services at IU Health Academic Health Center and Clinical Educator in ACPE.

 Example Readings

  1. Balboni TA, Vanderwerker LC, Block SD, et al. Religiousness and Spiritual Support Among            Advanced Cancer Patients and Associations With End-of-Life Treatment Preferences and      Quality of Life. Journal of clinical oncology: official journal of the American Society of          Clinical Oncology. 2007;25(5):555-560.
  2. Geros KN, Ivy SS, Montz K, Bohan SE, Torke AM. Religion and Spirituality in Surrogate Decision  Making for Hospitalized Older Adults. Journal of religion and health. 2016;55(3):765-777.
  3. Phelps AC, Maciejewski PK, Nilsson M, et al. Religious coping and use of intensive life-prolonging care near death in patients with advanced cancer. JAMA 2009; 301:1140-1147

Session 4: Clinicians and Religion

Sept 21

  • How do the belief and religious experience of clinicians (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc) affect their delivery of healthcare?
  • What role should clinician beliefs play in the refusal to participate in controversial religious practices, such as abortion or terminal sedation?

Guest Speaker: Alex Lion, MD, Fellow, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Indiana University and Ethics Fellow, Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics. Dr. Lion’s research focuses on clinician/patient communication about religion, with a focus on physicians, prayer and spiritual care.

 Example Readings:

Curlin FA, Lawrence RE, Chin MH, et al. Religion, conscience, and controversial clinical practices. N Engl J Med 2007; 356:593-600.

Session 5: Perspectives of Specific Religions

Nov 16

  • While every faith has beliefs about health and healthcare, some faiths t require or forbid certain interventions that are common or widely accepted in US healthcare. This seminar will explore:
  • Orthodox Judaism and withdrawal of life sustaining treatments; Jehovah’s witnesses and blood transfusions; Catholics and birth control

Guest Speaker- Jason Eberl, PhD-Catholic Bioethics

Session 6: Summary and syntheses


  • What current challenges and tensions exist between religion, spirituality and healthcare?
  • What are future directions for practice, scholarship and research in this field?

photo of book paging God

Wendy Cadge


Thursday March 9th 12:00-1:00

Regenstrief Institute; Social Hub, 1st Floor; 1101 W. 10th Street

She teaches and writes about religion in public institutions in the contemporary United States especially as related to questions of diversity, immigration, sexuality and healthcare. She is currently working on a series of projects about religion and spirituality in public institutions including deep-sea port and maritime contexts, airports, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. With Boston-based photographer Randall Armor and architectural historian Alice Friedman, she is collaborating on a project about Hidden Sacred Spaces in Boston which builds on earlier work about sacred spaces in public settings. With $4.5M from The John Templeton Foundation, she is collaborating with George Fitchett at Rush University Medical Center on a four year project, "Transforming Chaplaincy: Promoting Research Literacy for Improved Patient Outcomes." She is also working with Michal Pagis and Orly Tal on a project about the development of healthcare chaplaincy in Israel. With colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, she is collaborating on a series of articles about the presence of religion and spirituality in ethics consultations.

Cadge's most recent book Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012. She has published widely on related topics including medical studies of intercessory prayer, physicians’ experiences of religion and spirituality, hospital chaplains, the prayers people write in hospital prayer books, religion and spirituality in palliative care, and the lived experiences of nurses. Cadge also co-edited a book Religion on the Edge: Re-Centering and De-centering the Sociology of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2013) that challenges and aims to expand contemporary sociological approaches to the study of religion. 

More about Wendy here.