Approaching patients and family members who hope for a miracle

Eric W. Widera, Kenneth E. Rosenfeld, Erik K. Fromme, Daniel P. Sulmasy, Robert M. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


A clinical problem may arise when caring for patients or their surrogates who prefer continued aggressive care based on the belief that a miracle will occur, despite a clinician's belief that further medical treatment is unlikely to have any meaningful benefit. An evidence-based approach is provided for the clinician by breaking this complex clinical problem into a series of more focused clinical questions and subsequently answering them through a critical appraisal of the existing medical literature. Belief in miracles is found to be common in the United States and is an important determinant of how decisions are made for those with advanced illness. There is a growing amount of evidence that suggests end-of-life outcomes improve with the provision of spiritual support from medical teams, as well as with a proactive approach to medical decision making that values statements given by patients and family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Miracles
  • decision making
  • divine intervention
  • pastoral care
  • religious beliefs
  • spiritual support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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