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Remaining ambiguities surrounding theological negotiation and spiritual care: reply to Greenblum and Hubbard
  1. Trevor Bibler
  1. Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Trevor Bibler, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, 1 Baylor Plaza, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, 77030, USA; Trevor.Bibler{at}

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Readers have much to consider when evaluating Greenblum and Hubbard’s conclusion that ‘physicians have no business doing theology’.1 The two central arguments the authors offer are fairly convincing within the confines they set for themselves, the provisos they stipulate and their notions of ‘privacy’ and ‘public reason’. However, I would ask readers to consider two questions, the answers to which I believe the authors leave opaque. First, what is theological negotiation? Second, what makes chaplains the singular group of healthcare professionals responsible for theological negotiation? In this Commentary, I explore these questions not with the goal of rejecting the authors’ conclusion, but rather with the goal of highlighting relevant considerations when evaluating the authors’ central tenets.

First, I would like readers to consider Greenblum and Hubbard’s descriptions of theological negotiation. They categorise theological negotiation into metaphysical, normative and alternative responses, and hold that this kind of negotiation is, for the most part, impermissible for healthcare professionals, save chaplains.1 The examples of Dr Chatterjee and Dr Thompson expand theological negotiation to include instances where physicians add a theological veneer to their clinical recommendations. In both the examples, the physician has made the case for accepting or rejecting a certain intervention—for Dr Chatterjee, accepting …

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  • Contributors TB is the sole author.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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