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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
    Back to Module 14: Religion, Spirituality, and End of Life Care
    Why is Spirituality Important?

    Why is Spirituality Important in End of Life Care?
    Twelve Reasons to Ask About Religious Beliefs and Practices

    Why is Spirituality Important in End of Life Care?

    • Spirituality and religion are important to patients and families
      • Recent polls conducted in the United States indicate that patients and families are requesting increased attention to the spiritual dimension of their lives by health care providers, especially at the end of life

      • These spiritual issues and concerns are often (though not always) asked and answered with reference to a religious framework of meaning
    • Consequently, it is important for health care professionals to:
      • Learn about the religious beliefs and practices of the patients and families in their care

      • Assess the role of these beliefs and practices in health care decisions

      • Integrate these spiritual beliefs and goals into the overall plan of care
    • The spiritual role of the health care provider is crucial to care of the whole person at the end of life
      • Focus of care is the whole person and family

      • Explicit goal of care is to alleviate, not just physical pain, but social, emotional, and spiritual suffering

      • Increasing expertise in the area of spirituality and religion becomes not only a professional but a moral obligation


    Twelve Reasons to Ask About Religious Beliefs and Practices

    1. Because health care decisions are made by persons who are at once physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual beings

    2. To respect the beliefs and customs of patients and families

    3. To provide care that is truly patient and family centered

    4. To respond to the widespread request by patients for attention to this area by their medical caregivers

    5. To build trust and respect religious customs and beliefs

    6. To provide an opportunity to inform patients/families of the interdisciplinary care available to them. See section About Hospice Care for more information

    7. To better distinguish religious experience and belief considered normative from pathological behavior or belief induced by medications, abnormal grief, or disease progression

    8. To better understand when a conflict might occur between goals of medical treatment and patient values/beliefs

    9. To accurately identify and treat total pain

    10. To help patients draw upon resources that might help them cope with unrelieved physical pain or other symptoms and/or to identify non-physical causes of this pain

    11. Because the end of life raises spiritual questions for the majority of persons

    12. Because people’s religious/spiritual traditions have established rituals and beliefs that influence health care choices, bring comfort and meaning, and facilitate closure or transition at the time of death

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