Religious cancer patients are more prone to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care compared to non-religious patients, a new study says:
The patients who were devout were three times as likely as less religious ones to be put on a mechanical ventilator to maintain breathing during the last week of life, and they were less likely to do any advance care planning, like signing a do-not-resuscitate order, preparing a living will or creating a health care proxy, the analysis found.
“People think that spiritual patients are more likely to say their lives are in God’s hands — ’Let what happens happen’ — but in fact we know they want more aggressive care,” said [Dr.] Holly G. Prigerson….
“To religious people, life is sacred and sanctified,” Dr. Prigerson said, “and there’s a sense they feel it’s their duty and obligation to stay alive as long as possible.”
Aggressive life-prolonging care comes at a cost, however, in terms of both dollars and human suffering. Medicare, the government’s health plan for the elderly, spends about one-third of its budget on people who are in the last year of life, and much of that on patients at the very end of life.
Aggressive end-of-life care can lead to a more painful process of dying, researchers have found, and greater shock and grief for the family members left behind.
When I am at the end of my life, and my suffering gets unmanageable, I want to die at home with friends and family. I want to have a nice meal, listen to my favorite music, talk around the dinner table, read some excerpts from my favorite books, and then take something to end my suffering and die in my sleep.
Too bad that’s illegal. The government has no right to tell me that I must suffer in a hospital bed for weeks instead of ending my life peacefully with friends. Hopefully those laws will be overturned by the time I need to ask a friend for help.
By the way, the best article I’ve read on assisted suicide is “At Death’s Window” by Anne Lamott — a Christian!