New Paper Explores Role of Human Spirit and Spirituality in Pediatric Nephrology

May 26, 2023

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Division of Pediatric Nephrology clinical director and medical director or pediatric dialysis, Michael L. Moritz, MD, FASN, has co-authored a new review article on “Investigating the Human Spirit and Spirituality in Pediatric Patients with Kidney Disease.” Dr. Moritz coauthored the review with Robert Woroniecki, MD, from Stony Brook Children’s. The review was published in Frontiers in Pediatrics in February 2023.

About the Review

In their paper, Drs. Moritz and Woroniecki explore the intersection of pediatric kidney disease and the influence of the human spirit and spirituality. Despite significant strides made in understanding the genetic, epigenetic, and molecular factors behind kidney ailments and hypertension in children, the exploration of extrinsic variables like the human spirit remains underdeveloped. The essence of spirit, distinguished from the soul, serves as our conduit to our external existence and purpose, a concept resonating across various ancient civilizations.

Spirit is separate from the soul and is our link to our external world and purpose. It is recognized as a crucial component of patient care by major healthcare bodies. However, social determinants of health often leave out the aspect of spirit, focusing on concrete factors like economic stability and education.

Existing research, limited though it is, suggests that the human spirit, especially when finding a sense of purpose, contributes to improved health outcomes. For example, in adults, having a purpose in life has resulted in lower risks for mortality and heart diseases. It is also associated with better mental health and life satisfaction.

There's evidence of a hereditary component influencing the onset of chronic diseases, with childhood experiences playing a significant role. However, there's a lack of understanding of how human spirit, social networks, and familial relationships affect health outcomes, particularly in relation to kidney disease.

Drs. Moritz and Woroniecki advocate for more intensive research into the role of human spirit and spirituality in the daily lives of children with chronic kidney disease or hypertension. While spirituality often intertwines with religion, it should be viewed as separate from the established doctrines and practices of a faith group. Furthermore, it's worth noting that while hope, closely tied to purpose, can be beneficial, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and hinder pragmatic decision-making. In adult patients undergoing dialysis, the existential facet of spirituality has had a more pronounced impact on their quality of life than religious adherence, suggesting the need for similar research in pediatric nephrology.

The full text of the review is available to read using the reference link below.

Learn more about Dr. Moritz and the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.


Woroniecki R, Moritz ML. Investigating the Human Spirit and Spirituality in Pediatric Patients with Kidney Disease. Front Pediatr. 2023 Feb 23; 11: 1104628. Mini Review