end of life care doesn't have to be religious

Advance directives are an important way to ensure you and your loved ones receive the type of care and memorial services that are in line with your wishes and beliefs. Many healthcare systems are affiliated with a particular religion and family members may wish to impose their own beliefs on others. In those cases, it’s especially important to document your wishes and share that information with your family and healthcare providers long before it’s needed.

The Institute for Science and Human Values invited Debra Smietanski and Carol Anne Johnson to outline the steps to necessary to prevent unwanted religious intrusion through advance directives.


Written by Michelle Daly

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  1. I have worked in religious affiliated and for profit hospitals. Generally the staff caring for you has absolutely no idea what religion you are unless you have special requirements for food or blood etc. Your care isn’t influenced in any way by religion in the regular day. For end of life it is important to have advanced directives but remember those are directives not a legal contract so your family can over ride them and they in fact are more likely to not honor the advanced directive than a hospital or health care provider. A good understanding with your own PCP is important so if there is an ethics board or some other legal proceeding you have someone who knows what you wanted. Also taking the extra step to get them done by a lawyer who can testify to what you intended and your ability to make a choice is important.

  2. I went to a neighbor’s funeral service, he wasn’t a member of any church, but the service was put on by his fellow members of the ELKS club! It was very interesting and quite dignified, without a lot of religious talk. Very much like a regular service. The members each spoke a little about John, and there were wishes for his eternal peace. Then at the end, each member walked by at his coffin at the end and deposited a flower or a twig into the coffin.

  3. If there’s one thing I learned from caring for my parents is have an advance directive and living will completed. No matter how old you are. You DON’T want a stranger making those decisions for you.


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