Faith and waste in public life

Updated, March 28, The Economist:

The participants were not asked directly how religious they were but, rather, about how they used any religious belief they had to cope with difficult situations by, for example, “seeking God’s love and care”. The score from this questionnaire was compared with their requests for such things as the use of mechanical ventilation to keep them alive and resuscitation to bring them back from the dead.

The correlation was strong. More than 11% of those with the highest scores underwent mechanical ventilation; less than 4% of those with the lowest did so. For resuscitation the figures were 7% and 2%.


Religious dying patients more likely to get aggressive care reports the Boston Globe:

“These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death,” the authors write in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. “Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death . . . intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers.”

Dr. Andrea C. Phelps, the lead author and a senior medical resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said previous research has shown a link between religious coping and preferences for “heroic” measures. But this is the first study to focus on these patients’ final days.

Read it all.

The “waste” in the headline to this post comes the conclusions of another recent study:

Terminally ill patients who talk over end-of-life treatments with their doctors spend less money and do not die any sooner but die more peacefully than those receiving aggressive care, researchers said….

Patients who have the discussion tend to opt for cheaper palliative care in a hospice or at home rather than costly treatments like emergency resuscitation, ventilators to breathe for them and movement to a hospital’s intensive care unit.

One third of expenses in the last year of life are spent in the final month, according to the report, with aggressive treatments in the final month accounting for 80 percent of those costs.

Read all the Reuters article in Cure Today.

No doubt [added: commenters say no to “no doubt”] many hospital chaplains sense this is true. Are they unable to break through to some significant portion of the religious patients or their families?

Addendum: JAMA abstract.

Past Posts