Parents want spiritual care if child dies

Sept. 5, 2006 at 6:09 PM
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BOSTON, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Parents with a seriously sick child want the best medical care, but also spiritual care when facing the death of a child, a U.S. survey finds.

The Rev. Mary Robinson and Elaine Meyer, of Children's Hospital Boston's Chaplaincy, administered anonymous questionnaires to 56 parents whose children had died in one of three pediatric intensive care units in Boston after the parents decided to withdraw life-sustaining therapies.

Although not asked explicitly about religion or spirituality, 73 percent of the parents offered religious/spiritual responses when describing what had been most helpful to them.

The four spiritual/religious themes that emerged were prayer, faith, access to clergy and belief that the parent-child relationship endures beyond death, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Parents wrote much more freely about spiritual/religious themes when offering advice to other parents than when offering advice to hospital staff.

"Some parents may be reluctant to share their spirituality without being invited, because they fear it may be misunderstood or judged in the scientific culture of the hospital," Meyer notes.

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