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  • Introduction
  • 1. Advance Care Planning
  • 2. Communicating Bad News
  • 3. Whole Patient Assessment
  • 4. Pain Management
  • 5. Assisted Suicide Debate
  • 6. Anxiety, Delirium
  • 7. Goals of Care
  • 8. Sudden Illness
  • 9. Medical Futility
  • 10. Common Symptoms
  • 11. Withholding Treatment
  • 12. Last Hours of Living
  • 13. Cultural Issues
  • 14. Religion, Spirituality
  • 15. Legal Issues
  • 16. Social and Psychological
  • More About:

  • Hospice Care
  • Clergy and Faith Communities
  • Additional Links
    Site Index

    About Clergy and Faith Communities

    The Role of Clergy and Faith Communities in End of Life Care
    Twelve Activities to Encourage the Participation of Faith Communities in End of Life Care
    An Example
    About Clergy and Faith Communities: Downloadable Document

    The Role of Clergy and Faith Communities in End of Life Care

    Except for conducting funerals and burial rites, many faith communities have relegated care for the dying to medical professionals. The hospital or hospice chaplain, likewise, frequently provides spiritual care at the end-of-life, rather than a person’s own clergy.

    There are a number of reasons why the clergy or faith community may retreat from a dying member--lack of familiarity with complex ethical issues, limited knowledge of medical treatments, concern about interfering with the care provided by the hospital or hospice chaplain, and discomfort in dealing with issues of death. In some cases, a conflict between the beliefs and values of a religious tradition and the goals of medicine leads the faith community to withdraw care and support at this crucial time in the lives of its members.

    Recently, efforts have been undertaken by various national and local organizations to increase the participation of faith communities in end-of-life care through outreach, education, and closer ties with palliative and hospice care providers. In each case, the partnership begins with respect for the fundamental beliefs and practices of the respective religious tradition.


    Twelve Activities to Encourage the Participation of Faith Communities in End of Life Care

      1. Ongoing education of members on beliefs about meaning of life, suffering, illness, healing, dying and death, and afterlife.

      2. Raise awareness about fundamental religious values vis-à-vis medicine.

      3. Offer educational forums on specific issues related to end-of-life such as advanced directives, funeral and burial customs, legal matters and estate planning, hospice care, etc.

      4. Be an advocate within the medical system for respect of religious beliefs, practices, and prohibitions as well as for the importance of spiritual care at the end-of-life.

      5. Help members clarify specific goals of medical care that are in keeping with religious beliefs and values.

      6. Assist patients and families with difficult decisions regarding the direction of medical treatment and ethical dilemmas about withdrawal of life support, artificial nutrition, use of antibiotics, etc.

      7. Provide spiritual care and counseling to patients who are terminally ill and to their families.

      8. Mediate divine presence and affirm value and personhood.

      9. Provide assistance in sustaining religious practices and rituals for patients in the hospital or unable to leave home.

      10. Provide practical assistance such as respite for caregivers, meals, running errands, and housekeeping.

      11. Ensure proper disposition and treatment of the body at the time of death, and conduct funerals, memorial services, and burial rites.

      12. Offer bereavement counseling and grief support groups.