AMA J Ethics 2018 Jul 1;20(7):E613-620. Epub 2018 Jul 1.
the Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities and co-director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture (TMC) Initiative at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and an active palliative medicine physician in both the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke Divinity School.
When physicians encounter a patient who gives religious reasons for wanting to suffer, physicians should maintain their commitment to the patient's health while making room for religiously informed understandings of suffering and respecting the patient's authority to refuse medically indicated interventions. Respecting the patient can include challenging the patient's reasoning, and physicians can decline to participate in interventions that they believe contradict their professional commitments. Chaplains likewise should both support and possibly respectfully challenge a patient in instances that involve desire to suffer for religious reasons, and physicians should draw on chaplains' expertise in these situations to attend to the patient's spiritual concerns. Finally, conversations involving spiritual and existential suffering might include members of the patient's religious community when the patient is open to this option.