Religious leaders' perceptions of advance care planning: a secondary analysis of interviews with Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh and Bahá'í leaders.BMC Palliat Care. 2017 Dec 28; 16(1):79.BP
International guidance for advance care planning (ACP) supports the integration of spiritual and religious aspects of care within the planning process. Religious leaders' perspectives could improve how ACP programs respect patients' faith backgrounds. This study aimed to examine: (i) how religious leaders understand and consider ACP and its implications, including (ii) how religion affects followers' approaches to end-of-life care and ACP, and (iii) their implications for healthcare.
Interview transcripts from a primary qualitative study conducted with religious leaders to inform an ACP website, ACPTalk, were used as data in this study. ACPTalk aims to assist health professionals conduct sensitive conversations with people from different religious backgrounds. A qualitative secondary analysis conducted on the interview transcripts focussed on religious leaders' statements related to this study's aims. Interview transcripts were thematically analysed using an inductive, comparative, and cyclical procedure informed by grounded theory.
Thirty-five religious leaders (26 male; mean 58.6-years-old), from eight Christian and six non-Christian (Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Bahá'í) backgrounds were included. Three themes emerged which focussed on: religious leaders' ACP understanding and experiences; explanations for religious followers' approaches towards end-of-life care; and health professionals' need to enquire about how religion matters. Most leaders had some understanding of ACP and, once fully comprehended, most held ACP in positive regard. Religious followers' preferences for end-of-life care reflected family and geographical origins, cultural traditions, personal attitudes, and religiosity and faith interpretations. Implications for healthcare included the importance of avoiding generalisations and openness to individualised and/ or standardised religious expressions of one's religion.
Knowledge of religious beliefs and values around death and dying could be useful in preparing health professionals for ACP with patients from different religions but equally important is avoidance of assumptions. Community-based initiatives, programs and faith settings are an avenue that could be used to increase awareness of ACP among religious followers' communities.