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Approximately seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that praying can help people recover from illness, injury or disease, and nearly seventy-seven percent of American patients would like spiritual issues discussed as part of their care. Despite Americans' strong beliefs in the health-related benefits of religious and spiritual practices and traditions, the preamble to the federal Department of Health and Human Services' ("HHS") health information privacy rule (the "Privacy Rule") explains that health care "does not include methods of healing that are solely spiritual" (the "preamble"). The preamble concludes that, "clergy or other religious practitioners that provide solely religious healing services are not health care providers within the meaning of this rule..."

Some health care attorneys interpret the preamble as prohibiting hospitals and physicians from sharing individually identifiable health information with hospital-employed chaplains. On the other hand, many hospital chaplains argue that the preamble fails to distinguish between hospital chaplains (who, as members of the health care team, should be entitled to full access to patients' health information), and community clergypersons (who are entitled to receive limited directory information about those patients who have agreed to disclosures of their directory information). This Article provides a context for the controversial preamble within the historical relationship between religion and medicine.

Publication Citation

2 Ind. Health L. Rev. 51 (2005).