Religion and End-of-Life Decision-Making

This Article analyzes the relationship between religion and end-of-life care. We examine the private role that religion plays in individuals’ decision-making processes and the public role that religion plays through state support. We first discuss how the law approaches these issues by looking at both the legal grounding and ratification of surrogates’ decisions, and at public funding for hospice chaplains, showing that the law supports an individual’s choices concerning the desired impact (or nonimpact) of religious beliefs and practices. We then show how these laws are interpreted and lived, specifically in how surrogates handle end-of-life decision-making, based on empirical data obtained directly through in-depth interviews with those who have experienced the death of their parents. Religion profoundly affects end-of-life decision-making on a personal level, and various laws support religious-based reasoning. On the other hand, the present uncertainties surrounding the application of Hobby Lobby can compound the traumatic experiences of those involved, regardless of their religious (or nonreligious) beliefs and practices. Solutions involve additional legal support for end-of-life conversations.

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