Conversations at the edge of life : unmet spiritual needs
James Henry Wise
Dying is now a chronic illness, artificially extended through an ethos of denial of death, resulting in significant and substantial spiritual needs for the patient and their caregivers currently being unmet. Dying is a lonely process owing to its nature as a process each must traverse by oneself, within one's self. The pain and suffering inherently present is the most private experience, but their causes demand public accountability. Current medical practice and technology, intentionality or unintentional, serve principally to needlessly prolong the dying process without any purposeful positive impact on the underlying disease process, and resulting on the dumping of the moral responsibility for the death of the patient onto the medically and theologically unprepared familial caregivers. A continuing litany of "Patient Satisfaction Surveys" report "Unmet Spiritual Needs" as a principal source of patient/caregiver dissatisfaction. By the end of the twentieth century, advances in medical life-support techniques have allowed the artificial extension of human life. However, this prolonged existence may usually presents increasing incapacities at the end-of-life. Death now medicalized and delayed, dying is now riddled with unwarranted, useless, and meaningless suffering and limited to no spiritual support. Yet physicians report, "We can always keep doing things!" The tortuous journey of dying, for both patient and caregivers, is a destabilizing maelstrom of emotional pain, psychological terror, and physical suffering. Compounding the misery of the journey is the absence of the church, of spiritual support, resulting in unmet spiritual in many patients and families. The process of dying leaves patients and caregivers with feelings of loss, darkness, and disconnection. The focus of this project discovers and reports on the unmet spiritual needs of the dying from a true spiritual perspective, previously unreported in the literature.