Religious people are more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they die — according to research published in JAMA March 18th. My take: Religious people, more than non-believers, use their religion to bolster their fear of death but when death is coming and it is obviously not protecting them, they go for other extra-ordinary means more readily. They may still believe in an afterlife (though weaker than they imagine), but they discover that a large part of their belief motivation was hoping for insurance to avoid suffering (death being the worse they fear). Thus they switch from their god offering help (when he is not coming through) to their doctor. They will pray, of course, but when that doesn’t work (and it won’t), they justify jumping to the doctor by saying, “God put the doctor here for us.” But when the doctor fails, I have seen very confused Christians. I work in medicine and have spent much time in ICUs.
Tom Rees, here in Epiphenom, writes a nice clear-headed essay on why religious people allow extra-efforts at the end of life. The sad thing, as with their religious faith, is that their hope in the doctor’s saving ability is usually a false hope leading to undesired outcomes for everyone. Seeing clearly and bravely often is a far better road than wrong-headed superstition hopes. Mind you, I know Christians that don’t hope for their god to treat them differently than others, but this other scenario I see often.
Pic credit: mkbmemorial