I find the results of this study to be simply sad, but entirely unsurprising. An examination of dying cancer patients showed that the most religious were also the most likely to ask for very aggressive medical care.
The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith were nearly three times more likely to choose and receive more aggressive care near death, such as ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were less likely to have advanced care planning in place, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and healthcare proxies.
“These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death,” the authors write in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. “Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death . . . intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers.”
Most religions are built on fear and ignorance, so we shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that these dying people respond to their situation with great fear, and with little planning or thought. I don’t even think it’s because religion tells people to ignore their wills or to seek the most excessive (and ultimately, futile) medical attention — this is a property of the kind of people who seek out religion.