Culturally-Sensitive Approaches to Dying: Muslims and End-of-Life Care

Culturally-Sensitive Approaches to Dying: Muslims and End-of-Life Care

Lacey J. Ritter (Wingate University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0018-7.ch003
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Transformations in understanding the dying process include a focus on the holistic life of the individual, particularly understanding and respecting ethnic and religious variations in the dying process and end-of-life care. This is vital to ensure the dying process is considered a “good” one. Health services professionals are often lacking in culturally-appropriate training for dying patients that ranges outside pain management and physical symptom maintenance. Dying, however, does not just happen to the physical body. It is necessary to care for a patient's religious, social, and psychological selves as well. This chapter focuses on healthcare practices for professionals involved in end-of-life care, particularly for Muslim patients. Emphasis is placed on the role of cultural and religious understanding in providing patients and their families with a good dying experience.
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Historically, dying was considered a personal, family-focused experience. It was only recently that we moved the dying experience into the institutionalized hospital setting (Kellehear, 2007). Since families are no longer the primary end-of-life caregivers, many dying patients experience a sterile, medicine-focused dying process (Kaufman, 2005). At any stage of life, previous research has stressed the importance of caring for the whole individual as a person, as opposed to solely focusing on their physical ailments (Morgan & Yoder, 2012; Zamanzadeh et al., 2015). This holistic model of health care, which emphasizes the mind, spirit, and emotions along with the body, the is also a main tenant of hospice, which seeks to make the end-of-life experience as personal and positive as possible (Hospice Foundation of America, 2018; Zamanzadeh et al., 2015). For Muslim patients, then, making sure to incorporate religious and ethnic beliefs is a top priority in experiencing a good death, particularly when certain beliefs may contradict or challenge normative, Western approaches to end-of-life care (Harford & Aljawi, 2013).

The purpose of this chapter is to provide insight for end-of-life caregivers and health care professionals who encounter dying Muslim patients and their families. The overarching research question asked: “What are the cultural and religious gaps for treating Muslim patients during end-of-life in the United States?” This chapter assesses current policies and practices for end-of-life care to determine the availability of and focus on Muslim tradition during the dying process. Any cultural and religious gaps discovered will aid health care providers in delivering a good dying experience for their patients and their families. With over 1.8 billion Islamic followers and approximately 3.5 million of them residing in the United States, health care providers are likely to encounter Muslim clients (Badawi, 2011; Stephenson & Hebeshy, 2018). Being prepared for and able to provide for these clients at the end of life is the focus of this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Holistic Medicine: A form of healing that treats a patient as a whole person, rather than a specific illness or injury.

Hospice: Quality care provided for individuals with a terminal diagnosis in end-stages of life (6 months or less) that includes symptom and pain management, and caring for the social, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the patient, along with their physical wellbeing.

Bible Belt: A Southern region of the United States comprised primarily of conservative evangelical Protestants, which have a large influence on that region’s politics and society.

Palliative Care: Care aimed at relieving symptoms, primarily pain, for a patient, either during active treatments or during end-of-life care.

Cultural Sensitivity: A set of skills enabling individuals to learn about and respect people who are different from themselves that allows them to better help others.

Curative Medicine: Healthcare that focuses on curing or helping a specific medical condition or conditions.

Physician-Assisted Suicide: The hastened, chosen death of a patient associated with physician assistance, either through means (like drug prescriptions) or information (indications of lethal doses).

Cultural Competence: The ability of health care providers and/or organizations to deliver services that account for variation in patient needs based on sociocultural identity.

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