Religious patients more likely to get intensive life-prolonging care
By Madison Park
March 18, 2009
Cancer patients who rely on religion to cope with their terminal illnesses are more likely to use intensive life-prolonging care, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Aggressive treatments such as machine ventilation and resuscitation keep the patients alive, but they ultimately don't cure them.
"Religious copers may decide to undergo therapies with high risks and uncertain benefits because they trust that God could heal them through the proposed treatment," the study authors wrote.
Cancer patients who had high levels of religious coping were three times more likely to receive aggressive life-prolonging care.
"We're not saying every religious coper is likely to get aggressive care," said one of the authors, Holly Prigerson, director of the Center for Psychooncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "Most of them did not. Among those who were getting the most aggressive care, it was disproportionately a function of their being a religious coper."
How cancer patients cope
A new study finds that religiousness affected end of life treatments.
Percent receiving ventilation
High in religious coping: 11.3
Low in religious coping: 3.6
Percent receiving life-prolonging care
High in religious coping: 13.6
Low in religious coping: 4.2
Percent receiving resuscitation:
High in religious coping: 7.4
Low in religious coping: 1.8
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association
About 10 percent of those who had high levels of religious coping died in the intensive care unit, as opposed to 4.2 percent who had low levels of religious coping.
In this study, nearly 80 percent of the 345 patients with advanced stages of various cancers said religion helped them cope, and about 32 percent reported that their faith was "the most important thing that keeps you going."
More than half reported praying, meditating or taking part in religious studies. The study participants were primarily Christian and were followed until death.
The Coping with Cancer study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health, examined the relationship between psychological and social factors and the end-of-life outcomes at seven medical facilities in Dallas, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; West Haven, Connecticut; and Hookset, New Hampshire...