I recount this story to highlight an all-too-common experience with well-intended clergy members who become involved in medical care, often without fully understanding the implications of their religious or spiritual guidance. This tension was underscored by a fascinating new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It found that terminally ill patients who frequently turned to their religious communities for spiritual support were more likely to pursue aggressive medical interventions at the end of life regardless of the medical appropriateness of the care. These patients also were more likely to die in an ICU and less likely to receive hospice care.
On the other hand, the study revealed that end-of-life discussions and the provision of spiritual care by medical teams (including doctors, nurses and chaplains) resulted in less aggressive interventions at the end of life, reducing suffering for patients nearing death.” more