Faith, Culture and End of Life Care
Faith, Culture, and End of Life Care
According to particular religions, the end of life care has everything to do with bad and good death. The World Health Organization’s description of palliative care emphasizes the need to improve the life quality of the patients as well as their families. To achieve this threshold, caregivers have to incorporate the patient’s psychological as well as spiritual needs in their duty to promote the patients’ well-being. Many individuals and societies alike prepare for death following their cultural and religious upbringing. Therefore, it is of great significance that the practitioners involved in palliative care are sensitive to and appreciate the diverse cultural and religious dispensations of their patients. Even though certain ideas and practices may seem absurd to caregivers, it is not their place to judge the patients’ actions or ideas. What they need to do is ensure the patients are comfortable in their final days on earth; if holding on to their religious or cultural beliefs gives them that, then it must not be respected. It shall be evident from the paper that the palliative caregivers need to strike a critical balance between being compassionate and being professional with specific considerations of a patient’s faith and culture.
End of life care refers to the medical attention given to a person, mostly an elderly person, during the last periods before his death. End of life care does not just suddenly occur when the patient stops breathing, and the heart finally stops beating. An elderly person is most of the time dying slowly with one chronic disease or the other. Therefore, these senior citizens usually require a lot of care for weeks or even months to ensure their last days on earth are as comfortable as they can be. This paper looks into the ethical dilemmas a health physician faces while administering treatment to the patient. It also looks at the cultural and spiritual elements of the healthcare professional, the patient and the family that causes the common disagreements between the staff and the patient or his family.
Culture and End of Life Care
Many factors determine a person’s thought about death; acculturation and ethnicity are some of those factors (Sprung et al., 2007). According to the IRB Advisor (2015) Meslin says that IRBs and the field of human research protection focus considerable energy on informed consents and privacy issues. Therefore, it is possible that a different kind of harm that seems to be benign today is missed entirely, and it will shock some generations to come. It is worrying that the primary focus on avoiding physical harm is covered so well that people will miss out on some less obvious issues like harm to culture. The way in which a particular group of people lives is their culture. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is the affiliation to a group or other groups based shared values as a mother tongue. It has been noticed, from the various end of life care experiences, that culture is a major determinant of choices in end of life care. Culture influences one’s selection of the mode of life support should their heart stop pumping as it should (Sprung et al., 2007). It also affects a person’s preference as to whether and how they want information about a terminal illness and where they wish to receive treatment (Sprung et al., 2007). In some cultures, speaking about another person’s death is a taboo. While making a decision on the mode of life support to put a patient through, it is important for the professional caregiver to discuss the issue with the patient and their family openly. The health provider might be knowledgeable about the best way to help the patient out of the life threatening situation. Their knowledge of the right thing alone is not enough (“Ethical challenges,” 2002). In such a situation, it would be wise to follow the utilitarian theory of ethics and accept the patient’s choice to be correct since it gets the patient joyful (“Moral Theories,” 2015).
Different ethnic groups have different ideas regarding the precise ways of treatment like artificial nutrition via feeding tubes (Sprung et al., 2007). However right the physician thinks the deed is it does not qualify to be right if the person patient and his kin do not want their survival to depend on that act. If a healthcare professional insists on proceeding with the treatment, it might just result in conflicts with the family members that are not in any way good for the well-being of the elderly person in his sunset days. Different ethnic groups also register different preference patterns regarding the end of life care (Sprung et al., 2007). A past study pointed out that most African Americans propose “aggressive treatment” for their loved ones. Initially, African Americans, Asians, Russians, and Latinos preferred CPR though they had a poor understanding of what that meant (Sprung et al., 2007). I am, therefore, important for the medical personnel to be patient with the patients and their surrogates and explain things to them slowly. If the patient accepts, the treatment can proceed, if they do not, it will be unethical for the doctor to continue according to the Utilitarian theory of ethics.
Faith and End of Life Care
A person’s religious faith is yet another important aspect of determining how a person wants to receive his or her end of life care. Terminally ill people are known to depend on spiritual and religious support to help them cope with their condition (Sprung et al., 2007). The spiritual support is said to help improve the patients’ quality of life. It also has a bearing on the medical decisions the patients make. A recent study conducted by interviewing doctors from different hospices revealed that Christians are unexpectedly very aggressive in their attempt to prevent their death through medical means (Sprung et al., 2007). This finding comes as a surprise considering the Christian belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, according to the Bible, had the power to heal anyone including himself, but when God decided to take him through death on the cross, he did not try to cheat death; he died like any mortal man (Sprung et al., 2007). Christians are therefore not expected to seek to cheat when it comes; but surprisingly, they do. That fact notwithstanding, patients with severe illnesses regard spirituality as a critical aspect of their survival. The caregiver’s faith can also influence the type of treatment he chooses to provide (“Ethical challenges,” 2002). However, in the spirit of this paper, the caregiver’s thoughts or good intentions can only count if the patient appreciates them. Even so, the patient is still earmarked for death; the treatment is just to make him comfortable as he waits for his death. The senior should not use anything that irritates him.
In conclusion, to avoid unnecessary conflicts, caregivers need to let the patients and their families decide the type of care they want. Once they have decided, the caregivers can give some advice if they think the method they have chosen is way too unprofessional to be adopted. If the family still insists, they should just submit rather than argue about it. If the whole point of the end of life cure is to see to it that a person is peaceful and comfortable as he fast approaches his death, denying them such choices would be equivalent to denying them their death wish. The utilitarianism dictates that the determination of the right or wrong is by weighing the cost against the benefits of an action. The primary objective of the end of life care, as mentioned severally before, is to ensure the comfort of the elderly as their lives come to a close. Allowing the patient to carry on with what makes their mind feel at ease, however, unconventional it may seem, will achieve this goal. Denying them that and imposing the professionally correct action does not. Common sense should, therefore, prevail in every engagement between the healthcare professional and the seniors together with their surrogates.
I thank everyone who contributed in any way towards the completion of my Research. First of all, I thank my parents for understanding the importance of the project to me and helping whenever they could. I also thank all my classmates who gave me ideas on this topic and went through my work and corrected me where necessary. Last, and most importantly, I thank my professor for the unwavering guidance he has given me throughout the course to enable me to write such a paper.
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IRB Advisor. (2015, June 1). Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.dscoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/IRB-June-2015-issue.pdf
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