Religious coping and mental health outcomes in family members making DNR decisions

Johanna Rose Sood, Fordham University


Probably the most common and important decision to be made at the end of life is the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decision. Most older adults have DNR orders, prohibiting cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest, written for them by physicians in the hospital. Others write their own DNR prior to anticipated incompetence in the form of an advance directive. Research has found family members faced with making DNR decisions often turn to religion. Only two studies have considered the religious coping (RC), methods or patterns of religious behaviors and cognitions that individual use to cope in difficult situations, and mental health (MH) of family members making DNR decisions. The purpose of the current study was to promote an understanding of the RC and MH of such family members. Participants (N = 80) were recruited through the internal medicine inpatient services of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York, Saint Vincent's Hospital Manhattan. The average age of participants was 53. They were primarily female (73%), white (56%), and the child or spouse of the patient (60%). Family members participated in a 45-minute interview within 24 days of having made a DNR decision. Participants who used a positive RC pattern experienced higher levels of well-being (r = .36, p < .01), while participants who used a negative RC pattern experienced higher levels of stress on two indicators, t(75) = −2.44, p = .02; t(75) = −3.48, p = .001. Furthermore, family members whose loved ones had advance directives experienced more well being, t(75) = −2.34, p = .02. Many of the expectations of the current study did not find support. An explanation for this lack of support could be that sometimes the situation itself takes precedent, family members were in a state of crisis. Another could be the relative heterogeneity of the current study sample in comparison to past study samples. Still, the current study contributes to the understanding of the role of RC for family members under the emotionally challenging circumstance of having to make DNR decisions for loved ones in the hospital.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Sood, Johanna Rose, "Religious coping and mental health outcomes in family members making DNR decisions" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169396.