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Meditation 758
Fear of Dying

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Suppose you were unfortunate enough to be in hospital with a terminal illness. You have been briefed by your physician that being put on a machine to keep you breathing or being resuscitated will be stressful painful and may extend your life for a few days, but extremely unlikely to allow you to eventually walk out of the hospital. How would you be likely to react? Would you choose to undergo those procedures? Would it matter if you believed or not?

It might seem logical that a believer, thinking there's an afterlife to come, would slip quietly away, while a non-believer would fight to put off the end. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Society shows it is the opposite. Believers are more likely to undergo aggressive medical measures to extend their lives.

The study followed the last months of 345 cancer patients. Each of them was questioned about how they used religious belief to cope with difficult situations. The score from the questionnaire was compared with their requests for aggressive measures. There was a strong correlation between the use of mechanical ventilation and the use of resuscitation and belief. An analysis of the data showed that patients identified as 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.

And this holds as true even when the patients were counselled by a physician that aggressive measures had very little chance of succeeding.

I can understand that a person who thinks God gives them the strength to handle pain might be willing to endure more pain in the expectation of a positive outcome. But why suffer indignities at the end of life when there is no reasonable expectation of a cure?

It's something I don't understand - but then I don't really understand blind belief either.