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Psychooncology. 2012 Jul;21(7):714-23. doi: 10.1002/pon.1967. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

Religious coping and behavioral disengagement: opposing influences on advance care planning and receipt of intensive care near death.

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Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.



This study examines the relationships between methods of coping with advanced cancer, completion of advance care directives, and receipt of intensive, life-prolonging care near death.


The analysis is based on a sample of 345 patients interviewed between January 1, 2003, and August 31, 2007, and followed until death as part of the Coping with Cancer Study, an NCI/NIMH-funded, multi-site, prospective, longitudinal, cohort study of patients with advanced cancer. The Brief COPE was used to assess active coping, use of emotional-support, and behavioral disengagement. The Brief RCOPE was used to assess positive and negative religious coping. The main outcome was intensive, life-prolonging care near death, defined as receipt of ventilation or resuscitation in the last week of life.


Positive religious coping was associated with lower rates of having a living will (AOR = 0.39, p = 0.003) and predicted higher rates of intensive, life-prolonging care near death (AOR, 5.43; p<0.001), adjusting for other coping methods and potential socio-demographic and health status confounds. Behavioral disengagement was associated with higher rates of DNR order completion (AOR, 2.78; p = 0.003) and predicted lower rates of intensive life-prolonging care near death (AOR, 0.20; p = 0.036). Not having a living will partially mediate the influence of positive religious coping on receipt of intensive, life-prolonging care near death.


Positive religious coping and behavioral disengagement are important determinants of completion of advance care directives and receipt of intensive, life-prolonging care near death.

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