Religion and Your Healthcare Directive

I always explain to our clients that their Advance Healthcare Directive is a very personal document. It is because it details your wishes for your personal care, including your desire for pain relief, blood transfusions, and life-saving procedures, just to name a few. But it doesn’t have to stop there; your Advance Healthcare Directive can also be an opportunity for you to express your preference for treatment decisions according to your religious belief.  

Spirituality is a defining part of our lives, and something we hold very close to our hearts. Doctors and hospitals, for all the sensitivity they may have toward each individual’s preferences, don’t always have the knowledge required to give you treatment in line with your religion’s teachings. If you don’t have your wishes specifically spelled out in a Healthcare Directive, you could find yourself receiving emergency treatment that you would have refused had you been able.

It is for this very reason that it is important to mention your religious preferences to your Estate Planning attorney. Many religions, such as Catholicism, Judaism, Christian Scientists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, offer specific language that you can include in your Healthcare Directive to ensure that you are cared for according to the dictates of your beliefs. 

Some of this language can be found on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles website, or the Rabbinical Assembly online, just to name two. If specific language for your personal spiritual path cannot be found online, ask your Rabbi, Priest, Pastor, or other Spiritual Advisor for help. (Although some of the sites found online may offer a complete Healthcare document, the laws regarding the use of Healthcare Directives change from state to state, and change over the years, so it is essential that you still consult with an attorney before executing any legal documents.)

Our spirituality is an integral part of the way we live, it should be no less integral to the way we are ill, recover . . . or even the way we die.