Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

My Fight: Cancer Death with God’s help

with 5 comments

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It is hard for me to interpret this news item from  BBC News:

People with strong religious beliefs appear to want doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive as death approaches, a US study suggests.

Those who regularly prayed were more than three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care than those who relied least on religion.

It suggests that such care, including resuscitation, may make death more uncomfortable.  Just over 30% of those asked agreed with the statement that religion was “the most important thing that keeps you going”.

A cross and candle

I think it is saying that those who chose to hang in there at all costs may be making their death more difficult.  I am not sure that the above question is relevant or that it can be associated with piety. If they had asked, if medication was “the most important thing that keeps you going”, I’m sure they would have got a lot more than 30%.


The researchers … found these people were the least likely to have filled in a “do not resuscitate” order.

As well as receiving resuscitation, they were much more likely to be placed on mechanical ventilation in the last few days of life.

However, work has been done which suggests that intensive intervention in the last few weeks and days before death may reduce a patient’s quality of life.

The patients’ chances of dying in their preferred place were also reduced.

The researchers in this latest study stressed that religion had been widely associated with an improved ability to cope with the stress of illness.

But “because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with a poor quality of death and caregiver bereavement adjustment, intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers”, defined as those who regularly used prayer or meditation for support.

The message is clear to me.  It does not make me any less religious in chosing to let nature – and death – take its course.  I have already expressed my wish not to be put on life support equipment if all it is doing is keeping me alive.  I can only hope that it was the right choice.

As palliative chemotherapy or radiation will not give me any more time, I have dismissed these processes as treatments of last resort.  I may – or may not – accept them when the time comes.


Written by Greg Naylor

19 March 2009 at 1:24 am

5 Responses

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  1. Forgive me if my comments appear rude or lacking in empathy – i cannot imagine what you are going through.

    How does one make “the right choice” for yourself, your family and those caring for you when faced with life threatening illness? There are so many factors that come into play.

    Does choosing any options, and i include euthansia, make one any less religious ?

    I don’t think God or any religion effectively support or provide clear guidance to those dying when there are so many medical options available these days.

    But its good to talk/write. I enjoy reading your blog and find your views interesting and a compelling read.


    19 March 2009 at 11:14 am

    • You have stumbled upon one of the great puzzles of death in that we cannot have empathy until we get there. We can have empathy with children because we have been there. We cannot prepare adequately for death because we haven’t been there.

      So we look for the options through medicine, religion, and family and we come up blank. You are right, there is no ‘clear guidance’ that I have been able to find. I write because I can in the hope that the discussion might clarify my thinking on what is yet to come. Thank you for listening.

      People look at me strangely when I tell them that I have never died before and I don’t know where I can get a certificate of competency.

      Greg Naylor

      19 March 2009 at 1:36 pm

  2. I don’t know where I can get a certificate of competency.

    I think we’d get them from you, Greg.

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    19 March 2009 at 8:49 pm

  3. How do we hold a graduation ceremony?

    Greg Naylor

    19 March 2009 at 8:54 pm

  4. At the Milawa?

    Btw, the petrol-head computer geek Dave is going to the Grand Prix this weekend. Easter’s out, so how about we make it 28 March or 4 April? Tell Dave he should bring his new Mac and he’ll probably be there – the show off.

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    19 March 2009 at 9:38 pm

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