When Faith Creates False Hope

Nurses Spirituality


  • Specializes in Emergency, Med-Surg, Progressive Care.

You are reading page 2 of When Faith Creates False Hope

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

1 Article; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.
What I struggle with at my workplace is not death (as you said it is inevitable) but my young patients in young bodies with strong hearts and lungs, who often hold on for *years* in persistent vegetative states while their families have told me with all sincerity that their child will one day walk again. It's sad. It's also hard to listen to the ones who are losing faith. One said to me, "I was always told that God had a plan for each one of us. I can't accept that God would have this kind of plan for my child where they suffer so much every day." What can anyone say to this? Often I am at a loss for words.
I will offer comfort...maybe a hug.....and say....One day maybe we will have all the answers....right now you just need to trust in your faith and trust that we are doing everything we can humanly do to be sure that your child isn't suffering. Do you have someone....maybe clergy to come sit with you that you would like for me to call? Would you like for me to call someone from pastoral care to be with you right now? I need to go do xyz...I'll be back to check on you both...if you need me put the light on....and give the family member the call button.


0 Posts

Would you agree with them that God *could* (emphasis ♪♫ in my ♥) heal the patient, or would you stick to the facts (as they pertain to this plane of existence)? Is this considered prognosing, which fall outside our scope of practice?
There's a huge chasm between *could* heal and *will* heal... I am fine validating the former just as I am very reluctant to provide absolute assurances of full recovery even to those in whom it's very, very likely.

Only God knows whether God *will* heal them.

That said, I am strongly of the belief that if God intends to miraculously heal someone, even Jahi McMath, that the actions of the medical staff are irrelevant and that said healing will happen even if the tubes and wires are all disconnected.

I believe that miracles do happen... I also believe that they are exceedingly rare and that they are, well, miraculous.

That said, as one whose child has beaten many odds, I won't sell God short... sometimes the miracle is in the eye of the beholder... and I'm OK with that, too.



0 Posts

If we have a terminally-ill patient, and a family member says, "I believe that God will heal her," do we have a professional obligation to reiterate the prognosis and dismiss their religious beliefs
And a succinct response to a direct question:

Not only do we not have a professional obligation to do as you say, to do so would be nursing malpractice... and simply cruel.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

1 Article; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.


131 Posts

Specializes in Emergency, Med-Surg, Progressive Care.
There's a huge chasm between *could* heal and *will* heal... I am fine validating the former just as I am very reluctant to provide absolute assurances of full recovery even to those in whom it's very' date=' very likely. Only God knows whether God *will* heal them.[/quote']

The people in Jahi's Facebook posse are choosing the latter verbiage. They are insisting that God will heal her, not that he could. If I were religious, I would find it blasphemous to assume any of a divine being's plans.

To answer my own question (as in the original post), I would probably say something like the following: "I am glad that your faith is bringing you comfort during this hard time in your life." It doesn't invalidate the family member's belief, and it also doesn't put me in the position of providing false hope, which I believe would be unethical.

BrandonLPN, LPN

3,358 Posts

As a nurse, I would never dismiss a patient or their family's belief in miracles. That isn't very therapeutic or "nursey".

But, this being a public message board, we're free here to speak our minds. And, yes, I do think that the kind of faith possessed by the McMath family is delusional, ignorant and plays a key role in this country's relative inability to accept certain medical/scientific realities.

Saying God could "wake" this girl is as relevant as saying He could turn my sweater into a rhinoceros.

BSNbeauty, BSN, RN

1,939 Posts

When I worked in the ICU I had several patients who had anoxic brain injuries and have been later diagnosed as brain dead. When family members pray and display their faith that God will bring their families members back, I offer them this. Yes, God is a healer and miracle worker and if it is His will then your family member will be healed and remain with us. I also explain that God allows such deaths and illnesses to happen but He is also there to comfort us if we allow Him.

Having faith is not false hope, it is the ability to believe that God has the final say contrary to all the medical evidence. I have personally witnessed many medical miracles.


44 Posts

In most reasonable cases I would simply be politely sympathetic. Miracles are not always a good thing. Quality of life doesn't always improve just case some one survies. It's the families belief not mine so while I will be supportive and sympathetic, I don't get in to it. Pastoral care/doctors I always try to bring in back up if I've got those who are realllyinsistent. My personal view is often far different from my professional view

ive seen both science and faith make people unwilling to let go but the heart of the it is always grief and pain. Denial and belief that something is going to intervene are how some cope. I won't yell at them but Ido worry for them. I think unless you've been there on that edge where the only thing you can cling to is that shred of hope you don't understand. Even having been there, though there are still a few that bug me. Maybe just cause I know how terrible that drop off is

when it just doesn't work

Specializes in ICU.

I think that people rely too heavily on a book that was written 3500 years ago. I am not saying that there is or isn't a God. That is an issue that I struggle with on a daily basis. Because this book talks about miracles, people somehow believe that God will choose them this one time and make a miracle happen for them because either they have been praying about it a lot or this person who is dying is such a good person and God wouldn't let them suffer. I personally think there is much embellishment in the Bible because they want you to believe without a doubt in God.

That being said I think having Faith is a good thing. My grandma died from cancer many years ago. She had suffered with different bouts of it and it finally went to her pancreas. At the end she was put in palliative care at the hospital and we kinda had our own little suite up there to spend with her in her final days. We had a priest come up who was employed by the hospital. He was wonderful and very comforting to all of us in our time of need. He helped me to be able to say goodbye to my grandmother and let her know that we were all ok with things so she could die in peace. I got my chance to sit down with her and tell her goodbye and how appreciative I was for all of things that she did for me in my life. Whether she heard me or not, I will never know, but it comforted me.

My point is, Faith can be a good thing. It can help someone through their most difficult times. The feeling that there is something greater out there than us and we will be reunited with our loved ones someday is helpful. I disagree with the Bible though and people's interpretation of it. People tend to take the book literally instead of what it actually is, a collection of stories. The book is full symbolism, and inferences, and that is how it should be read. Not taken at face value word for word. This is where the priests, ministers, and rabbis need to step in and explain the Bible properly. I think death would be much easier for people to accept if we didn't walk around with this notion that if we just believe, God will fix everything for us.

I hope I didn't offend anyone, as it was not my intention, but this has been my perspective lately and I honestly feel very sorry Jahi's family because they have convinced themselves that there is hope, when there is none. And I don't think that God would want the suffering of these people any more than they already have.


12 Posts

Specializes in med-surg - LTC-Home Health; Psych.

I read thru your many posts with many good points. However, what is happening in the McMath case is not blind insistence on some kind of "faith" that this adverse event that is happened and is going to reverse if there is enough prayer. If you've read any of the news coverage or perused the other news stories and comments on this case, this is the worst case of GUILT ever. People of "Faith" are not rude, obnoxious and demanding as this family was from the day she was admitted (day before) to the day they were "allowed" to take her out of the facility at CHO. All reports indicated that they blatantly violated post op orders by feeding her solid food and cold food which I don't have to explain to you folks why that was the causative factor with her fatal bleed out. Grandma an LVN at Kaiser admitted on HLN that "she had to suction Jahi because nobody else would" then tried to back pedal out of it. Sorry It's on YouTube. It's there for infinity. Granny also stated that Jahi had to "suction herself". There are reports of eye witnesses from other families that were in the recovery room, but they have disappeared from the magic WWW probably because of a gag order from the hospital which will not be able to vindicate themselves until this long drawn out mess is over. What a waste of resources. My point is - one cannot claim to be a "person of faith" and ACT like a bunch of ignorant, offensive and arrogant buffoons and terrorize the staff, other patients and family members because the outcome is not what they expected, and especially since THEY are the ones who are entirely culpable in this whole tragic affair. I truly send my thoughts and prayers to the staff who were on duty when all this went down and hope they can get the counseling they need so THEY can have peace of mind. Mcmaths family likely will never achieve any type of peace. they will go on masquerading behind their "religion" while their true colors are more than apparent to the public the more they try to carry on this charade. I am sorry to be so long winded by I just have to have my say. thanks.


150 Posts

I agree with azbluesgal. I believe a lot of it is guilt. The girl was obese and was having her tonsils removed to alleviate sleep apnea. Her parents should have helped her lose the weight before going to this measure, and they shouldn't have allowed her to get that big in the first place, so they probably do feel a lot of guilt for putting the poor child in this position in the first place.

Blue Roses

116 Posts

Specializes in Rehab, Med-surg, Neuroscience.

If you believe in God, you can look at it two ways.

Yes, the patient may be healed in a miracle despite the prognosis.

But, what if it's God's plan that the patient join Him in Heaven, and the machines are just post-poning the inevitable and causing unnessecary cruelty to the now- empty body?

Either way, no one wins.

I guess miracles are possible, but I haven't seen an obvious one and I am a huge skeptic. Epesically with patients declared brain dead.

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