How can I deal with conflict during end-of-life situations?

With end-of-life situations come decisions, and with decisions often come conflict. This can be conflict between family members, conflict between medical opinions or conflict between what your faith tradition teaches and what your doctor is suggesting. If you are struggling to make decisions that are in keeping with a particular religious tradition, here are a few things to remember: 
  • You are (probably) not an expert on the teachings of your religion. Most of our religious traditions have centuries of teachings behind them, so what we know is often just the tip of the iceberg. Before acting upon what you think is a hard-and-fast teaching of your tradition -- especially if it goes against what your heart, gut or doctor is saying -- bring your faith leader into the conversation. They are the experts on the teachings of your religion. 

    (In the event that you are an expert on the teachings of your religion, bear in mind that that is not the role in which you are currently functioning. Doctors are forbidden to treat their own family members for a reason: we cannot be both the objective expert and the person or family member. Even religious leaders need advice from religious leaders. If you do not have a colleague you trust, you might reach out to a chaplain for a neutral, but understanding ear.)
  • There are a dozen people around you who are also (probably) not experts on the teachings of your religious tradition. Many well-meaning people will see you struggling and want to help. They will tell you what they did, in a similar situation. They will tell you what they think your religion asks of you. If their input is helpful, good. If it is not, it is okay to tell them so. At the end of the day, you, and you alone need to feel comfortable with the decisions you make.
  • This is one of the times that a professional healthcare chaplain or another trusted mediator is essential. Chaplains are trained in both health care and spiritual and religious issues. They will not tell you what your religion teaches, but they will help you sort out the situation in front of you. What’s more, they are trained in communication and group dynamics, so they can help you navigate the family meetings and help you formulate questions for your medical team. They can advocate on your behalf and help you understand the options before you.

Continue Learning about End Of Life Issues

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.