Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Religious Belief Influences End-of-Life Treatment Choices


I'm starting to notice that in some of these Health articles, the writers have a little bit of leeway with attribution. For example, the article asserts that "aggressive end-of-life care can lead to a more painful dying process, researchers have found, and greater shock and grief for the family members left behind." The reader is given no information about the researchers that found this or the statistics that prove this.

The article itself is not about the study that produced those results; the article is about a study that showed that patients of strong faith are three times as likely to try to prolong life even during the last weeks. The sources are the author of the study and a cancer specialist who has also studied end-of-life decision making. I think that it might have added a human element if the article had included a patient's voice, but instead the author of the study speculates how patients must feel. Interviewing a terminally ill patient could definitely cross the line when it comes to minimizing harm, but an interesting perspective could have been someone of strong faith who pursued aggressive treatment and lived.

The article is for the most part focused and clear, but at the end, I thought the quote from Silvestri was confusing. "Doctors don't always acknowledge, and I'm pretty sure patients are telling us, that God is really important in their lives." God is really important in whose lives? And he's "pretty sure" they're telling "us" this? I feel like this could have made much more sense as a paraphrase. The paragraph directly following this quote has the same problem. "While cancer patients listed their oncologist's recommendation as the most influential factor affecting their decisions about medical care, their faith in God was the second most influential factor." This makes it sound like patient's are looking for oncologists with faith in God. Those two distracting mistakes at the end of the article left a bad final impression.


  1. I'm having trouble finding the story you refer to. Can you check that address and make it a hot link?

  2. They might have taken this article down. It finds it in a search here


    but then says the page doesn't exist at that address. It's also not in the archive. I followed the instructions for reporting a broken link on their website, so at least now they know about it.

  3. Okay here is the new link: