Spirituality Presents a Paradox in End-of-Life Care
"I think there needs to be better collaboration and communication between those providing medical care of patients and religious communities, about end-of-life care, palliative care, and hospice, and what certain technologies can offer, and help them understand what their congregants are facing when they're dealing with a terminal illness," she says.
"It's hard for them to appreciate when and if death will occur. So if they're unsure, they of course want to pray for the miracle and the hope for the benefits of the medical technology."
Researching the literature, I see that this is not the first study of its kind. In 2009, Balboni and colleagues drew similar conclusions in a JAMA paper about how terminally ill cancer patients use religion to justify futile end-of-life care. In fact, there are numerous studies drawing similar conclusions.
The authors point out that their findings "emphasize the need for clinician spiritual care training, particularly given their frequent lack of training and its association with increased spiritual care provision."
Eventually, they may be able to convince their spiritually-minded patients that "choosing to withhold aggressive end-of-life measures does not constitute taking matters out of 'God's hands."
Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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