Spirituality and health

Martin B Van Der Weyden
Med J Aust 2007; 187 (7): 423-424. || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01325.x
Published online: 1 October 2007

In reply: The MJA’s spirituality and health supplement has reawakened the long-standing tension between supporters of science and supporters of spirituality, and I welcome their conflicting and unaccommodating views. The barrage of letters received reflects a perceived incongruity between spirituality and evidence-based medicine, with its requirement for evidence that is controlled, measured, counted and analysed by statistical methods.1 But the task of physicians has always been to understand not only the disease but also the patient. And for some patients, religion and spirituality are important — or, indeed, central — to their lives and health. The purpose of the supplement was to explore this area.

Jackson is perturbed that, in publishing the supplement, the Journal has sold its scientific soul. However, one of the goals of the Journal is to provide a scholarly forum for continuing education and informed debate on standards of clinical practice, ethics, and social, legal and other issues related to health care in Australia.2

While it must be acknowledged that religion and spirituality involve areas of knowledge not governed by the scientific method, it would be intellectually dishonest to refuse to consider any role for spirituality in health care.

Jackson also alleges that the supplement fails to satisfy the Journal’s policy on sponsored supplements, but proffers no evidence. In fact, the supplement complies completely with our policy for such publications.3

Despite the ongoing conflict between science and spirituality, exploration of the latter is increasingly considered for inclusion in modern medical curricula.

  • Martin B Van Der Weyden

  • The Medical Journal of Australia, Sydney, NSW.


  • 1. Malterud K. The art and science of clinical knowledge: evidence beyond measures and numbers. Lancet 2001; 358: 397-400.<eMJA full text>
  • 2. Van Der Weyden MB. From the Editor’s Desk . . . the Journal [editorial]. Med J Aust 1995; 162: 344.
  • 3. Van Der Weyden MB. In reply: You oughta be congratulated [letter]? Med J Aust 2002; 177: 400. <MJA full text>


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