Empathy and Attending to Patient Religion/Spirituality: Findings from a National Survey of Muslim Physicians

Mohamed A. Hamouda, Linda L Emanuel, Aasim I. Padela*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Attending to patient religion and spirituality (R/S) generates controversy. Some worry that because physicians lack formal religious training they may overstep their expertise, while others argue that physicians who are attentive to patient R/S provide higher quality of care. We aimed to describe American Muslim physicians’ perspectives and practices regarding R/S discussions, and how physician characteristics correlate with these.A questionnaire including measures of religiosity, empathy, and attitudes and behaviors toward R/S, was randomly administered to Islamic Medical Association of North America members.More empathetic physicians were more likely to inquire about patients’ R/S, share their own religious ideas and experiences, and encourage patients in their own R/S beliefs and practices (β =.44, p <.01). More empathetic physicians also had greater odds of encouraging discontinuation of futile life-sustaining interventions (OR 1.90, p <.05). Additionally, respondents with higher empathy had greater odds of encouraging patients at the end-of-life to seek reconciliation with God (OR 3.27, p <.001), and seek the forgiveness of those they have wronged (OR 2.48, p <.001).In the context of R/S diversity among the patient and provider population, enhancing physician empathy may be key to attending to the health-related R/S needs of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-104
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Health Care Chaplaincy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Islam
  • Spiritual support
  • doctor-patient relationship
  • empathy
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Religious studies
  • Clinical Psychology


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