The article questions an assumption in palliative care literature, namely that all patients have a spiritual dimension and that all staff can offer spiritual care. The article identifies spirituality as a particular kind of discourse. In late-modern Anglophone societies, this discourse arises from the experience of a particular generation and a particular segment of the population, namely those moving beyond formal religion; this segment is probably better represented among caring professionals than among dying patients. A four-fold typology of patients' approaches to religion/spirituality is developed, indicating the potential of differentiating between actual patients, rather than presuming a universal ‘search for meaning’. This alternative approach may enhance opportunities for team working and reduce the likelihood of any one member of staff feeling spiritual care to be an unwelcome burden.