Coping with a Terminal Illness

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A terminal illness can generally be defined as an illness for which there is no cure and the prognosis is fatal. We all know that we will die someday but most of us think of this as some distant time. For individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, though, they must face the reality of their own mortality and are forced to re-evaluate their lives and must make choices about how to best spend the remainder of their days. For the purposes of this paper I am focusing on the cultural differences between how American society copes with a terminal illness and how Jewish American’s cope. Coping with a terminal illness is not unique to any particular culture. How an individual reacts and prepares for their own inevitable death however is quite different depending on one’s past life experiences, education and religious background. Some know exactly what to do, while others may be devastated and feel helpless and powerless to do anything. According to a 2005 Pew Research Center Survey, American’s overwhelmingly support an individual’s right to decide whether he or she want to be kept alive through medical treatment. 84% of those polled said that they approved of laws which say medical treatment which is keeping a terminally ill patient alive can be stopped if that is what the patient desires. 70% said there are some circumstances when a patient should be allowed to die while 22% said medical personnel should do everything possible to wave the life of the patient. (Parker, 2009) There has been much debate in our society over whether physicians should disclose the prognosis terminally ill patients. Often physicians intentionally overestimate survival times when communicating with patients in order to give the... ... middle of paper ... ...mer, M., Lee, M., & Ganzini, L. (1997). Practical Issues in Physician-Assisted Suicide. Annals of Internal Medicine, Retrieved from Isma, M. (2006, August 11). Grieving and Coping With a Dying Loved One: A Serious Challenge. Retrieved from Reed, P., & Rousseau, E. (2007). Spiritual Inquiry and Well-Being in life-Limiting Illness. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, 19(4), 81-98. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Dorff, E. (2005). End-of-life: Jewish perspectives. Lancet, 366(9488), 862-865. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67219-4 Washofsky, M. (2005, Fall). A Jewish Guide to the Moral Maze of Hi-Tech Medicine. Reform Judaism Magazine, Retrieved from

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