Protecting Your Religious Beliefs During an Illness, Accident, or Death

By Roz Jones

If you have an emergency resulting in medical attention, there is a chance your religious beliefs could collide with conventional medical treatment. For a range of reasons, your beliefs may not jive with the prescribed treatment for an illness or injury. 

Protecting your religious beliefs ahead of time will make an impact on your life should you have an illness, accident, or die. It’s important for you to convey them to your medical team or somehow alert them to be cautious of your beliefs. 

There are many ways to make sure your religious beliefs are carried out and honored. Here is a list of actions you can consider to protect your beliefs: 

Use an advance directive: Your advance directive can detail any limitations or specific needs you have based on your religion and religious practices including refusing treatments when they do not match your religious practices.   

Wear an alert bracelet: Sometimes people wear jewelry that indicates their religion or preferences in case they are unable to speak on their own behalf. 

Make pre-planned funeral arrangements: You can protect your religious beliefs and customs by pre-planning the care of your body after you die. Some religions have very specific rites of passage that can be protected by a mortuary that understands your beliefs and can carry them out on your behalf. 

Choose providers based on their beliefs: From personal care physicians to hospitals, rehab centers, and assisted living facilities, many are faith-based. Choose providers that already share your beliefs for an easier time. If you do not have access to a provider in your same faith, connect with their social services department to open a discussion about your needs. 

Designate an advocate: You may need an advocate to speak with staff and educate or hold them to your standards for religious boundaries. A clergy member or elder staff member at your church might be a great advocate for your care needs. 

Did you know? There are protections for staff from engaging in practices that go against their religious beliefs as well. Be sure your needs are covered wherever you receive care. Some faith-based hospitals, care homes, or providers may be protected against performing procedures that are against their belief systems too. 

Religious beliefs play a large role in treatment and after-death management of your remains. Be sure to educate others about any limitations or boundaries you have based on your faith and help ensure your rights are protected and respected. 

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