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Placing Religion and Spirituality in End-of-Life Care

This study has accelerated efforts to improve end-of-life care and has indirectly promoted a rapprochement among religion, spirituality, medicine, and health care.2 The goal of a quality comfortable death is achieved by meeting a patient’s physical needs and by attending to the social, psychological, and the now recognized spiritual and religious dimensions of care.3,4 This perspective is highlighted in a recent consensus statement that includes the assessment and support of spiritual and religious well-being and management of spiritual and religious problems as core principles of professional practice and care at the end of life.5 Yet multiple ethical and pragmatic issues arise.

 The issues of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia exemplify the complex interaction between religious belief and ethical decision making in the end of life care. Recent studies have found an inverse association between measures of religiousness and attitudes towards PAS. A survey of physicians, nurses and social workers in New York City found that respondents who had lower levels of religious belief were more willing to endorse assisted suicide than those who reported higher levels of belief.

Link: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/193261

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