In today’s politicized climate, the mention of religion and medicine in the same title might suggest a focus on insurance requirements under Obamacare. But the topic of Wendy Cadge’s important book is both broader and deeper, longer term and more complicated: What happens to religion when hospitals, many of them founded by religious orders and denominations, are formally secularized or otherwise constrained to cater to patients beyond their founding communities?
Cadge’s findings are based on surveys of 17 nationally ranked teaching hospitals and on intensive interviews and observations at two such hospitals located in an unnamed northeastern city. Cadge and her associates visited all of the hospitals’ chapels. In one of the primary hospitals, which she calls Overbrook, she interviewed chaplains and shadowed them on their rounds. In the other (“City Hospital”), she interviewed and shadowed nurses and physicians in intensive care units.