Case Study on Death and Dying

Death and Dying Case Study
The case study from 2015 is about a gentleman who is in his fifties and who has been
diagnosed with a condition known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He is an attorney called George
whose residence is in the State of Oregon. He is an active player in the sport of his son, basketball
and is also a tutor at a university. After understanding what he has been diagnosed with, George
knows that the disease will keep on progressing. He also knows that for people suffering from this
disease, life expectancy can range from between three and five years although some people can
live for more than ten years. George understands that there is no cure for this disease and that drugs
can only be used to slow down the progress of the disease.
As a provider of healthcare, one cannot avoid coming in contact with patients coming from
different races, religion, culture and races on a daily basis. This calls for the need for healthcare
practitioners to have some basic knowledge on different religions. In this paper, the case study of
George is used to do a comparative decision making and ethical analysis in the light of the two
religions of Christianity and Buddhism. To gather information on both the Christian and Buddhist
Worldview, various journals and research articles using both the qualitative and quantitative
research methods were utilized. An analysis was also done of the answers the two religions provide
to some basic questions in life as well as the views of the religions on health and sickness.
It is very important for health care practitioners to be able to related well with the patients
and provide specialized care that is not biased. They need to give a sense of reassurance, comfort
and relief from psychological and emotional stress to which they have been subjected by their
diagnosis. To achieve this, the healthcare provider must relate very well with the patient and
understand their weaknesses and strengths. The provider of healthcare must also know the spiritual
affiliation of the patient and the worldview of that religion on health and illness. The care providers
need to understand that different people from different religions have different worldviews. They
have to acknowledge that patients may have worldviews that differ from that of the provider. It is
therefore important to respect the views of others as well as their faith. Providers should not allow
their individual faith or views to influence the quality of care they deliver to the patient. Alridge
(1991) states that the process of healing and recovery is faster when medical practices are
combined with spirituality are incorporated into the care given via different worldviews.
The Worldview of Buddhists and Christians
Our worldviews are the cultural lenses with which we view the world, it is they that give
meaning to life both at the personal level and for the human race as a whole (Shelly & Miller,
2006). One’s worldview is the perspective with which a person sees the world and the influence
of the belief on the totality of life. The concept of worldview can be best understood through
responding to the questions of James Sire which seek to know what primary reality is, what the
nature of the surrounding world is, what a human being is, what happens to a person at death or
when they die, why we know things, how one distinguishes right from wrong and what the meaning
of the history of humans is. Different religion give different answers to these questions.
The Worldview of Christians
Shelly & Miller (2006) state that for Christians, the prime reality is God who creates and
sustains all things. In Genesis 1:1, it is states that In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth.” The book of Colossians also states in the 16
verse of the first chapter that “for in him
all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. The
disobedience of the first people who were created by God caused man to fall from his first glory
and a great change in the order of the created things because all the things that God has created
were good. This is as written in genesis 1:31 that God saw all that he had made, and it was very
good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.” This is what opened the way
for infirmities, sickness, pestilences, disease and death. However, God did not abandon man in his
fallen state, he looked for a way to redeem man through His own son Jesus Christ who, through
his death and resurrection, has reconciled man back to God. The Christians believe that His death
on the cross ended both spiritual and physical suffering for those who believe. Isaiah 53: 4-5 states,
“surely he hath borne our grieves, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten
of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our
iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Though the Christians believe that Jesus Christ brought about to the human race salvation,
redemption and reconciliation with God, they wait for a final day when they will be restored fully
to God in heaven after the return of Jesus on earth to take with him those who have been faithful.
According to the Christian Worldview, it is the Holy Spirit that guides and teaches people to know
right from wrong and choose to do what is right. There are also moral standards, miracles and
human dignity in the Christian Worldview. Christians also believe that after death, there are two
places one can go, either to heaven or to hell. According to Christianity, life is divine. It is given
by God and so He only has the right to take it (Shelly & Miller, 2006). Therefore, Christianity
frowns upon killing other people and suicide. They hold that life needs to be treated with dignity
and respect and that there is no body with the right to take life.
The Worldview of Buddhists
According to White (1993), Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion because it
majorly explains the way of being or life. He says that the aim of Buddhism is “to lead a moral
life; to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions; and to develop wisdom and understanding”
(White, 1993, p. 1). Buddhists pay homage to the image of Buddha, the man who, from his
enlightenment experience, taught others. White explains that the purpose of the image is to remind
the Buddhists to love each other and work for peace. According to them, there is no God who
created all the things, they live by Buddha’s principles. A Buddhist’s ultimate goal is to be
enlightened or awakened, a state called Nirvana. Buddhists hold that for one to be healthy, they
have to create it in their mind. Hawter (1995) states that the Buddhists that illnesses and problems
are just like the clouds which block the sun, they do not last long and can be eliminated by getting
rid of thoughts that are negative and replacing them with thoughts that are positive. They believe
in Karma’s power, which are either negative or positive actions. There are four noble truths in
Buddhism which are the dukkha or “the truth of suffering,” samudaya or “the truth of the cause of
suffering,”nirhodha which is “the truth of the end of suffering” and magga, “the truth of the path.
Buddha describes the treatment for disease as “The Eightfold Path.” All these are the major moral
principles of the Buddhists which include also the right speech, view, resolve, concentration,
mindfulness, effort, conduct and livelihood. In short, it entails doing everything right.
Analysis of the Case Study
There are many denominations in Christianity. According to George’s denomination,
illness results either from a sin one has committed or a test of faith from God. From a Buddhist
perspective, the disease of George can be attributed to his desires and thoughts because it is
believed in Buddhism that suffering comes upon people because of their cravings or desires.
The ASL that has struck George has made him to be physically unfit. He is gradually
becoming more and more dependent on other people as his disease continues to advance. As per
the beliefs of Christianity, the life of George has greatly deviated from what God created as a
perfect creature. Although God still values this life, the body is suffering. In accordance with the
first noble truth of Buddhism, George’s suffering is in order since suffering is part of the human
Although George’s pain and suffering greatly grieves his heart, for Christians, Euthanasia
is out of question because it is against the will of God. Christians believe that helping a person to
take their life is murder. Life is given by God and no one, but no one has the right to take it. In a
similar manner, euthanasia is not supported in Buddhism. Buddha teaches that it is not good Karma
to either kill someone else or oneself (Lizardi & Gearing, 2010).
Both of these religions justify helping George through his illness so that at the end he can
experience a peaceful death. He is to benefit from palliative and spiritual care as his disease
progresses. Both of these religions respect and value life and so it is important that George is taught
how to enjoy his life maximally for the time of that is left. Both religions believe that prayer is
powerful and so this can benefit George.
Christians believe that when one repents, their sins are forgiven and that prayer works
miracles. Thus, if George got this sickness because of a sin he committed, he can repent and ask
God to forgive him. Christians believe that God is faithful and is just enough to forgive all ins and
cause restoration and healing. No matter the situation God is in, God, if he wishes to do so, can
perform a miracle and bring about his healing (Meilaender, 2013). After a terminal illness one dies
and so George should use the remaining part of his life in building a good relationship with God
through prayer and good deeds. He should impact the people he encounters and cleanse himself
before God to make for a good life after he dies, everlasting life in heaven.
Holistic care is a very important and a central part of the nursing care. The spirituality of the
patient is very important to achieve holistic care. During sickness, formerly able and agile people
become disabled and have to depend on other people either emotionally or physically or even
psychologically. At this time, spiritual care plays a huge role in the process of healing or
transition to healing or a death that is peaceful. Therefore, care providers need to be diverse in
their knowledge of the worldviews of different religions in the provision of spiritual care. The
two religions that have been analyzed in this paper have some similarities in that they both
advocate for respect and value for human life. Providers should give care without being biased or
influenced by the personal view of the provider.
Aldridge, David. (1991). Spirituality, healing and medicine. The British Journal of General
Practice, 41(351), 425-427.
Hawter, P. (1995). Healing: A tibetan Buddhist perspective. Retrieved from
Lizardi, D., & Gearing, R. (2010). Religion and Suicide: Buddhism, Native American and African
Religions, Atheism, and Agnosticism. Journal Of Religion & Health, 49(3), 377-384.
Meilaender, G. (2013). Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. (3
ed., pp. 21-22). Grand
Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Retrieved from
Shelly, J. A. & Miller, A.B. (2006). Called to Care: a Christian Worldview for
Nursing. (2nd ed.) Downer Grove IL: IVP Academic/InterVarsity Press.
Retrieved from
The Holy Bible. KJV,NIV
White, B. (1993). Buddhanet basic Buddhism guide: A five minute introduction. Retrieved

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