Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Religious Patients More Likely to Seek End-of-Life Cancer Care

Interesting. A major attraction of religion is that it claims to offer life after death that is better than life on earth. So one might expect believers to be less afraid of death. However, my personal experience with a few friends and family when they were dying does not show this to be the case. Eg., my grandmother, who was quite religious, wondered if Got was punishing her for something by giving her cancer. It just added to her distress.


By Elizabeth Lopatto

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Patients who used religious faith to cope with their advanced cancer were three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging treatment than those not relying on spiritual beliefs, according to a Harvard University study.

The faith-oriented patients were more likely to use ventilation to breathe or have CPR administered in the week before they died, according to the study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They wanted physicians to take “heroic measures” to keep them alive, and were less likely to have do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills or someone designated as their health-care proxy.

It isn’t clear why these patients pursue more aggressive treatment, said Andrea Phelps, a senior medical resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the study’s lead author. It may be that people with a strong sense of faith are more optimistic or are more satisfied with their quality of life, Phelps said. Doctors should be sensitive to religious beliefs and help plan care accordingly, Phelps said.

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