How would you comfort a dying atheist? - page 7

Also, do you think it is okay to respect the religious views of other family members , like praying, last rites... if they insist it be done?... Read More

  1. by   tewdles
    Good point, Patty.

    It is NOT part of our profession to preach, proselytize, or promote one belief over another. We must learn how to set aside our PERSONAL beliefs in order to fully hear what the patient and family need. We must be able to then discover how to offer those "things" regardless of our PERSONAL thoughts or beliefs.

    Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc...people of all faiths practice nursing and work with persons of differing faith at end of life. The "good" practitioners can accomplish that without EVER revealing their personal attitudes to the patient or family if necessary, but only mirroring back the good and important things that the patient and family need to see to find peace in THEIR process.
  2. by   Mr. Murse
    Though I've not been a nurse to many deaths this far in my career, in my personal experience I've found that most atheists are more accepting and at peace with dealing with death than most believers. I personally don't believe in an afterlife, so comforting believers can be a tricky situation for me sometimes, but I do so with respect for their beliefs and situation, and I definitely don't pity them for fearing something I perceive as make-believe and rather hokey, and I DEFINITELY don't try to influence their beliefs in any way.

    Many believers have a lot of trouble accepting that there are very happy, fulfilled atheists out there who will die in true peace without sharing your faith in God or afterlife, knowing that they have lived this life to the best of their ability and understanding.

    Think of it this way: how would you want an atheist nurse to treat you on your deathbed?
  3. by   *4!#6
    As an atheist, the most insulting thing you could do to me on my deathbed would be to perform last rites or some other ritual to appease my family members or your own sense of spiritual justice. I am extremely offended when people think that I am going to "convert" on my deathbed or if they told me "god will forgive you." I just don't understand how people cannot fathom that some of us just don't buy into religion.

    This may be difficult for some to understand but I find more comfort and solace in the fact that death is the end of my existance and a final resting place. I have never felt more at peace with myself when I came to my own understanding that this world is all their is, and that when it is my time to go, I will return to the earth and time will move forward just like it did before I was born. There is no special place for me to go, and I am just a single blip on time's radar. I am not afraid of death and non-existance. Sometimes I wonder and even think that as atheist, I am more comfortable with death then many theists. I am more afraid of pain or suffering or discomfort (such as gasping for breath), so comfort measures to make my passing as comfortable and as dignified as possible would be the best for me.
  4. by   Patti_RN
    Sagremus, you bring up a good point about receiving comfort as a dying patient. Worse than comforting, these religious fanatics are torturing dying people. I wonder how these self-appointed ministers would feel if they were hospitalized, tethered to tubes and lines, unable to breathe easily--let alone speak in their own defense--and a member of another religion stood and subjected them to prayers, chants, lectures, smoldering incense, or condescending remarks about how pitiful they were and how sorry they felt that the poor patient was doomed to hell for not believing the 'right' doctrines?

    I'm a fully capable, healthy person, quite able to verbally defend myself. But, I can feel my blood pressure rising and my heart racing when confronted by political or religious zealots who tell me how wrong I am in my positions or beliefs. I can only imagine the anxiety and torture I'd feel if I were hospitalized and dying, and some nurse (or doctor, or tech) came in to 'save' me. Talk about torturing a patient!!! I'd rather have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than hear the gospel of another religion or why my politics are so wrong.
  5. by   PolaBar
    While I wasn't terminal. I did find myself gravely ill in the hospital and in significant pain. At some point, when they were pumping me with tons of fluids (9L or something in a day), I was afraid I'd end up in shock and would die. I didn't. I did wonder how I would feel about being put on life support at that point, if things got worse (and there was a reasonable chance of recovery). But, at no point did the idea of a deity cross my mind. I did realize there wasn't anything for me to do in the situation, which helped me relax and not worry too much. I think I would have been confused if someone tried to offer me "spiritual" help, I really do forget that some people truly believe in supernatural stuff.

    But, for taking care of me while dying, I think the important things are making sure the immediate needs are met (pain, physically comfortable, breathing comfortably). I still don't have a living will made up, but, perhaps there would have been a time to discuss that stuff. (Mentally, I'm sure I was not that capable of making real decisions, but I'm sure at least my wishes could have been understood).

    After I die, I really don't care what people chose to do with my body. If my family (not sure why since they're mostly nonbelievers) decided to have "spiritual" stuff done postmortem, it really wound't affect me at all.
  6. by   aprilmbou
    Yeah...why would you treat a dying atheist ANY different than anyone else? Do you go in trying to convert a dying Muslim or respectfully let him/her go in their own way? Please God, give me an atheist nurse when I die!
  7. by   julianp
    Had a ex tell me about a patient that was in her room crying. A pastor had just told her she was going to hell unless she repented now before it was too late. Obviously, this is a wrong thing to do but the last thing I want is for my nurse to spout religious junk because they want to feel better.