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Death Stud. 2003 Dec;27(10):881-99.

Religiosity and the challenge of terminal illness.

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  • 1Centre for Social Science Research, School of Nursing and Health, Central Queensland University, North Rockhampton Qld 4702, Australia.


One of the assumptions that underpins the literature on spirituality is the belief that facing a terminal illness is a life crisis that intensifies the search for meaning, leaving individuals predisposed to embrace religion. To date, however, there is scant empirical research on the topic. This article seeks to make a contribution to this topic by reporting findings from a qualitative study that address the question of whether individuals embrace religious beliefs when faced with the challenge of a serious illness. The data were gathered from open-ended interviews with 14 hospice patients, audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed. The findings indicate the majority did not seek religious comfort or conversion as a response to the challenge of terminal illness, even when this was seen as desirable. Although participants were not actively inspired to be religious as a result of their illness, they did hold a number of spiritual perspectives that were actively at play.

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