March 5, 2024

Religious patients hang onto life longer, says study

They also cost more, notes the New York Times

Patients who draw on religion to cope with their illness are more likely to
receive intensive, life-prolonging medical care as death approaches. And this
treatment often entails a lower quality of life in patients’ final days, says
the senior author of the study, Dr Holly Prigerson, an associate professor of
psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The study involved 345 advanced cancer patients at seven hospital and cancer
centres around the country. "Positive religious copers" had nearly three times
the odds of receiving life-prolonging care, in the form of being on a ventilator
or receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in the final week of life. They were
also less likely to have completed advance medical directives, such as a living
will or a do-not-resuscitate order, which can limit the extent of such
interventions in advance.

The New York Times pragmatically pointed out that a religious approach to
death costs taxpayers more: "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." ~ New York
Times, Mar 17
; Science
Daily, Mar 17