Meanwhile, statistics bear out the fact that inserting spirituality into patient care has wide public support. Drawing upon several independent studies, Dr. Bryan Thatcher said 90 percent of patients surveyed believe in God, and 70 percent point to religion as an important influence in their lives.
"At the same time, both the family of patients and the caregivers commonly rely on spirituality to help them get through difficulties," said Dr. Thatcher, the international director of Doctors for Divine Mercy and founder ofEucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers. An inpatient survey concluded that 77 percent of patients said physicians should address patients' spiritual beliefs; 57 percent of inpatients with terminal disease reported spiritual distress; and 72 percent of patients said their spiritual needs are not being met by medical system, Dr. Thatcher said.
"This should be proof enough that we need to take this to heart. Be courageous," said Dr. Thatcher, co-author of the new Marian Press title At the Bedside of the Sick and Dying: A Guide for Parish Ministry, Family, and Friends. "The majority of people are believers, and the families need and rely on spirituality to cope, and more say the medical system is failing them," he said.
No longer a practicing physician, Dr. Thatcher said that, looking back to his medical career, he has one regret: He once viewed medical care as simply "the mechanical treatment " of disease. "I didn't think of calling a priest and praying." He said, "There are so many people who are alone and going through death alone, and we have to be cognizant of this, not just of the mechanics."
'Have Courage!' | The Divine Mercy Message from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception