It has long been presumed that the presence of priests, ministers, and other religious leaders, in hospitals is medically important because these chaplains bring comfort to patients, which then has been supposed to translate into superior medical outcomes for the patients. A study of the records of hospitals in England, however, has uncovered evidence that spending money on hospital chaplains isn’t a medically helpful practice.
The study compared the amount of money that hospitals under the England’s National Health Service spent on chaplains to the degree of achievement by those hospitals of a range of nationally-recognized benchmarks of medical success.
There was no correlation between amount spent on chaplains and medical success in hospitals.
Even for mental health services, the study found that “there is no evidence that an increased proportion of income spent on chaplaincy results in improvements in quality.”
Nonetheless, the study found that the rate of spending on hospital chaplains is increasing faster than the rate of inflation.
It may be argued that some fervently religious patients have lower stress when visited by chaplains. If that’s the case, though, in order for the statistics of this study to be accurate, there would have to be a corresponding negative impact of chaplains on other patients.
If some patients want to have priests, rabbis or monks visit them in the hospital, why does a hospital-employed chaplain have to do the job? Why aren’t the religious leaders from patients’ own churches and temples in attendance? Are they too busy praying, perhaps?