Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 1203–1205 | Cite as

The importance of spirituality in African-Americans’ end-of-life experience

  • William T. BranchEmail author
  • Alexia Torke
  • Robin C. Brown-Haithco


A profound and moving spirituality provided emotional and psychological support for most terminally ill patients at Grady Memorial Hospital. The authors were able to trace the roots of these patients’ spirituality to core beliefs described by African-American theologians. Truly bedrock beliefs often reflected in conversations with the patients at Grady included the providence of God and the divine plan for each person’s life. Patients felt an intimate relationship to God, which they expressed through prayer. Importantly, almost all patients were willing to share their beliefs with the authors in long bedside interviews. This willingness to share indicates that physicians can learn about and validate such patients’ spiritual sources of support.

Key words

spirituality palliative care patient-doctor communication 


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Copyright information

© the Society of General Internal Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • William T. Branch
    • 3
    Email author
  • Alexia Torke
    • 1
  • Robin C. Brown-Haithco
    • 2
  1. 1.MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and Section of General Internal MedicineChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Chaplaincy Services & Clinical Pastoral EducationGrady Health SystemAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Emory University School of MedicineAtlanta

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