How would you comfort a dying atheist?

  1. 0
    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?
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  3. 84 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    That is a thought-provoking question. I would sit with them, hold their hand (if they want), talk with them, read to them. I would share my faith with them only if asked. I am a Christian, but I tend to be pretty private about it (okay....except in a few cases on allnurses...when standing up for my beliefs). Would I remain present if the family wanted to pray? Sure. Would I lead the prayer? Unlikely.
    LizHope likes this.
  5. 7
    Quote from stripbubbles
    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?
    you try and give their life meaning.
    i know it 'sounds' a bit simplistic, and much will depend on pt's willingness to talk.
    as for respecting religious views, that will be up to the pt.
    if he/she doesn't mind, then fine...
    but if it seems to bother pt, i would respectfully ask family to pray elsewhere, or do so in a way that will not offend pt.

    leslie
    tewdles, TrishJK, Cherybaby, and 4 others like this.
  6. 12
    Quote from stripbubbles
    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?
    Think about your question in the context of any other religion and ask yourself if you'd think it'd be okay.

    You'd then have your answer.
  7. 20
    Twice i made promises that gave comfort to dying non religious patients.

    One I didn't know well. He said, "If i die tonight tell my wife i love her."
    He seemed to relax when i promised to do so.
    He repeated the request just before going into V tach. Was aDNR.
    I was the one who called the wife at the primary physicians request. She came in and i told her again.
    It was the only time in my decades of nursing that a patients dying words had so much meaning.

    A diffrent patient I cared for three nights in a row on CRRT, IABP, and drips told me his life story. He had been an ordinary worker and lousy husband. He raised a son by himself. He dedicated his life to his boy.
    After a couple days off I learned he had died. I sent his son a card telling him what his Dad had told me, how proud he was, how much he loved him, and what a joy his son was to him.

    The son sent me a card at the hospital thanking me and praising all the nurses.
    Rick68fl, Lennonninja, acerbia, and 17 others like this.
  8. 4
    I'm with Leslie.

    What a great question!!!
    tewdles, *guest*, herring_RN, and 1 other like this.
  9. 9
    I think you start by asking what you can do for them, what might give them some kind of comfort or peace or meaning. For some, as other posters have said, listening matters most. Others might just want silence. Or music. Holding a hand or holding a red popsicle to parched lips can be a "last rite" of sorts.

    The greatest gift you can offer is to let them be and do and have what is in their power to obtain. No expectations or conditions but their own.
    tewdles, acerbia, Cherybaby, and 6 others like this.
  10. 19
    I think other posters have put it very well. The ideas of music, silence, presence, reminiscing about one's life---all of these sustain the patient's spiritual needs. And please keep in mind, just because someone is an atheist or agnostic, that doesn't mean he/she has no spiritual needs.

    The one thing I would NOT do is to try to impose my religious beliefs on any patient, especially someone who is dying. I know that there are some nurses who believe they are called to "convert" patients to their religion in order to save their souls. Unfortunately, I have worked with a few people like that and I have been appalled and shocked that they would use their position as health care professionals to proselytize.

    Recently, I spoke with a dietary aide who works at a LTC at which I had been employed. He is a born-again Christian and very zealous about spreading the "word". He told me that the DON has "given him permission" to "share his testimony" with the elderly residents living in that facility. I'm sorry, but I cannot get over how wrong that is on so many levels.

    I believe that the role of the nurse (or anyone employed in health care) is to respect the spiritual needs and religious views of those we serve and to accommodate those needs to the best of our ability, whether we share their religious beliefs or not. I also understand and respect those health care professionals who believe they are divinely called to share their beliefs with everyone---but they should do it on their own time, not at work. Proselytizing or imposing one's beliefs on a vulnerable adult---and let's face it, someone who is hospitalized or in a nursing home CAN be considered vulnerable---is morally wrong.
    aprilmbou, HazelLPN, Nurse Leigh, and 16 others like this.
  11. 17
    Quote from Moogie
    I also understand and respect those health care professionals who believe they are divinely called to share their beliefs with everyone---but they should do it on their own time, not at work. Proselytizing or imposing one's beliefs on a vulnerable adult---and let's face it, someone who is hospitalized or in a nursing home CAN be considered vulnerable---is morally wrong.
    Not to mention the incredible distress of being on one's deathbed and at the mercy of someone trying to convince you that the way you lived your life is going to send you to hell.
    pnut8377, OCNRN63, acerbia, and 14 others like this.
  12. 12
    Quote from Moogie

    Recently, I spoke with a dietary aide who works at a LTC at which I had been employed. He is a born-again Christian and very zealous about spreading the "word". He told me that the DON has "given him permission" to "share his testimony" with the elderly residents living in that facility. I'm sorry, but I cannot get over how wrong that is on so many levels.
    Quote from heron
    Not to mention the incredible distress of being on one's deathbed and at the mercy of someone trying to convince you that the way you lived your life is going to send you to hell.
    *shudder*

    you see?
    there are things worse than death.

    leslie
    onyx77, pnut8377, tewdles, and 9 others like this.


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