"Inappropriate" treatment near the end of life: conflict between religious convictions and clinical judgment

Arch Intern Med. 2003 Jul 28;163(14):1645-9. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.14.1645.


Not infrequently, Christian patients and families provide religious justifications for an insistence on aggressive medical care near the end of life. Four commonly invoked reasons are (1). hope for a miracle, (2). refusal to give up on the God of faith, (3). a conviction that every moment of life is a gift from God and is worth preserving at any cost, and (4). a belief that suffering can have redemptive value. For each of these 4 reasons, however, there are alternative Christian interpretations that point in the direction of limiting medical intervention under certain circumstances. When clinicians believe that an intervention is medically inappropriate or inhumane, they are not necessarily obligated to provide it simply because it is demanded on religious grounds. Instead, clinicians-preferably assisted by chaplains or clergy-should discuss alternative religious interpretations with the patient or family, and should attempt to reach a consensus on the appropriate limits to life-sustaining treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death
  • Christianity
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Decision Making
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / ethics
  • Life Support Care / ethics*
  • Male
  • Medical Futility
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Right to Die / ethics
  • Terminal Care* / psychology
  • Value of Life
  • Withholding Treatment / ethics*