We appreciated David May’s suggestion in his Oct. 26 editorial (p. 23) that professional chaplains have much to contribute to the national discussion on end-of-life care within healthcare reform. Mr. May said that, for his family, “the warmth, empathy and comforting presence of the hospital chaplain ... really saw us through at the end.” For patients and families facing any diagnosis, particularly one that involves treatment decisions near end of life, it is most often the issues that touch one’s spirituality—including those of suffering, hope, comfort and meaning—that cause distress and challenge communication. The recent consensus report, “Improving the quality of spiritual care as a dimension of palliative care: The report of the consensus conference,” published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine says that board-certified chaplains are an essential part of the interprofessional team. They are the spiritual-care experts who contribute to the diagnosis and treatment plan with respect to issues of spirituality. By virtue of their training and certification, professional chaplains work with persons of all religious and spiritual traditions as well as those with none. They are there not to impose a certain belief system upon patients or families, but rather to assist them in identifying their sources of strength and support. By helping to identify cultural, emotional, religious and spiritual beliefs and values, professional chaplains assist the care team to address and incorporate those components into the treatment plan.
Rev. George HandzoVice presidentHealthCare ChaplaincyNew York
Rev. Susan WintzPresidentAssociation of Professional ChaplainsSchaumburg, Ill.