, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 123–129 | Cite as

Does Medicine Need Ultimate Values?

  • Arthur W. Frank
Symposium: Hostility to Hospitality


The article responds to Michael and Tracy Balboni’s book on spiritual care in medicine. The Balbonis identify a genuine need. Many people consider the issues they face during illness to be spiritual, to varying degrees. Moreover, faith-based hospitals can exemplify the sense of vocation that often seems missing in secular hospitals. That said, the article argues that the Balbonis claim far too much for the place of religion in medicine. By writing in generalities, they evade the difficult questions that could be glossed as human rights, although their claims for religion lead to such questions. The one clinical case story that they present in detail is considered at length, attending to what is exemplary in the care described, but also what is potentially troublesome and even dangerous. A brief conclusion proposes alternative sources of values in clinical practice.


Spiritual care Religion and medicine Narrative medicine Health humanities 


Further Reading

  1. Charon, R. 2006. Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness. New York:Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Charon, R., DasGupta, S., Hermann, N., Irvine, C., Marcus, E. R., Colón, E. R., Spencer, D., & Spiegel, M. 2017. The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine. New York:Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Frank, A. W. 2004. The Renewal of Generosity: Illness, Medicine, and How to Live. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Frank, A. W. 2017. What is Narrative Medicine? Journal of Medical Humanities., 2017.
  5. Jones, T., Wear, D., & Friedman, L. (Eds.) 2014. Health Humanities Reader. New Brunswick:Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Launer, J. 2018. Narrative-Based Practice in Health and Social Care. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mattingly, C. 2010. The Paradox of Hope: Journeys Through a Clinical Borderland. In Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Morris, D. 2017. Eros and Illness. Cambridge:Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Stagno, Susan and Michael Blackie, eds. forthcoming. From Reading to Health: Teaching Medical Professionalism Through Literature. Kent: Kent State University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Zussman, R. 1992. Intensive Care: Medical Ethics and the Medical Profession. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur W. Frank
    • 1
  1. 1.CalgaryCanada

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