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Hinduism in Palliative and End of Life Care Research Paper

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Table of Contents
Introduction
About Hinduism and Its Impact on Medical Care
Clinical Practice Issues and Current Research
Spirituality and Clinical Practice
Specifics of Hindu Traditions
Barriers
Practice Guidelines
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

Hinduism is a widely popular religious tradition, practiced by over 900 million individuals across the world and considered the third most commonly adopted religion (Ramalingam et al., 2015). Although it originated from India, Hindu practitioners can be seen all over the world. This paper focuses on the religious belief of Hinduism and how it can affect the attitudes of medical personnel at the end of life and palliative care by critically examining and critically analyzing the current research on the topic and practice guidelines for medical professionals.

About Hinduism and Its Impact on Medical Care

The main issue of Hinduism and palliative and end-of-life care is associated with end-of-life decisions because of the conflict between Hindu principles, funeral arrangements and traditional approaches to managing end-of-life decisions. End-of-life care is defined by Ramalingam et al. (2015) as “interventions provided to assist individuals and their families near the end of life and may include hospice and/or palliative care” (p. 8). The knowledge gap here is the fact that the medical professionals and patients or their families may have different opinions regarding end-of-life care and since this topic is sensitive, it is vital to examine how religious beliefs such as Hindu affect the provision of care and the beliefs of individuals related to medical services.

Clinical Practice Issues and Current Research

Ramalingam et al. (2015) state that previous studies conducted in the United States and Europe found evidence that religious beliefs affect the perception of physicians and other medical professionals. Since the researchers focused specifically on the Hindu religion, it is possible to draw some conclusions about its impact on the end of life and palliative care. Ramalingam et al. (2015) concluded that “ethical, cultural, and patient-centered environment” (p. 9). This means that most medical professionals, particularly in the United States where the research took place, have adjusted their beliefs based on the scientific and medical standards and ethics, meaning that there are no barriers for them at the end of life care.

Spirituality and Clinical Practice

The research reviewed in the previous slide suggests that physicians practicing Hindu do not use their religion in their work. However, another scenario is a non-Hindu medical professional who comes in contact with a Hindu patient at an end-of-life facility. WHO’s definition of the end of life care approaches the issue of quality of life from the spiritual and psychological perspectives (cited in Sharme et al., 2013). This means that it is the duty of a medical professional to assist the patient and their family by respecting the religion they practice regardless of the personal views and opinions that this medical professional may have.

Specifics of Hindu Traditions

Next, to understand the specifics of end-of-life care pertaining to the Hindu religion, it is necessary to review the death practices adopted in India. Laungani (2001) wrote a case study describing the rituals that are prevalent among Hindu people, mainly the familial relationships, the family status in the society that is associated with the death of an individual. Mainly, Hindu tradition is characterized by the cast system, where each member of the society belongs to one of three groups – “the Kshatriyas (the warrior caste), the Vaishyas (the business and trading caste) and the Sudras (the lowest caste, born to serve the needs of the three higher castes)” (Laungani, 2001, p. 88).

The described factors help understand that Hindu families may treat end-of-life care and arrangements differently, based on their cast and position in society. Hence, medical professionals should be aware of this aspect and ask their patients or their families questions to determine their point of view. Another example of Hindu beliefs is that if the father of the family dies, the family loses their status, which threatened their financial well-being (. Hence, it is commonly believed that a man should outlive a woman. The variety of traditions that Hindus have in regards to funeral arrangements concern the way the family members dress, the red wedding mark of the widow, the food, and other aspects of life.

Barriers

Research by Doorenbos (2003) suggests that the main barrier of seeking hospice care for Indian people is the lack of awareness that these services exist and a cultural barrier concerning the misunderstanding of the staff members. The latter is an important factor because it suggests that Hindus do not want to use end-of-life care services in fear of being misunderstood or that their traditions will be violated because the medical personnel will not understand them.

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Additionally, “Hindus should die “with God in their thoughts or on their lips,” which is why the patient or their family choose to chant or read the holy book, as it keeps the focus of the person on the god (Doorenbos, 2003, p. 27). While these procedures are not standard for Western medicine and end-of-life care, it is vital to provide the opportunity to conduct these rituals because it affects the way these families deal with grief.

Additionally, it is believed that the body should remain at home before cremation, and the ceremony is performed following traditions as well. Moreover, research by Gupta (2011) suggests that the third generation of Hindus in the United States still follows the traditions and beliefs of the religion. All of these elements differ from the traditional funeral arrangements accepted in Europe and the United Kingdom. Unless the personnel is familiar with them, they may appear to be strange. However, as was mentioned at the beginning of this presentation, a vital aspect of end-of-life care is the ability to provide comfort to the family members and the patient, respecting their culture and traditions.

Practice Guidelines

The reviewed research suggests that Hindu beliefs of medical professionals working outside India do not obstruct them from critically analyzing their work and using standard medical practices or adhering to the Western ethics standards. However, some issues exist with non-Hindu medics, since many Hindus report not seeking help because of fear of misunderstandings based on different cultures. Hence, the practice recommendation is to be cautious of the specifics of Hindu traditions that were discussed in this presentation and respect the wishes of the patient and their family.

Conclusion

Overall, this presentation focused on Hinduism and the effects that this religion has on people who come in contact with palliative and end-of-life care. The current research on the topic suggests that physicians have adopted the scientific approach to end-of-life care and do not consider their religion as something that obstructs their medical practice as they focus on healthcare ethics and values.

References

Doorenbos, A. Z. (2003). Hospice access for Asian Indian immigrants. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 5(1), 27-33.

Gupta, R. (2011). Death beliefs and practices from an Asian Indian American Hindu Perspective. Death Studies, 35(3), 244-266.

Ramalingam, V., Saeed, F., Sinnakirouchenan, R., Holley, J., & Srinivasan, S. (2015). End-of-life care beliefs mong Hindu Physicians in the United States. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 32(1), 8-14.

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Sharma, H., Jagdish, V., Anusha, P., & Bharti, S.. (2013). End-of-life care: Indian perspective. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(6), S293-S298.

Laungani, P. (2001). Hindu deaths in India—Part 1. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 39(3), 88-96. Web.

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