Recent research in palliative care shows that there is a growing interest in pastoral
care with a focus on the importance of spirituality and/or religion. Palliative care aims
to improve the quality of life of both patients and their families by posing a
multidisciplinary support structure which looks after the physical, psychological, and
spiritual aspects of the patient. Pastoral counselling can add to the quality of life,
especially when patients are in the terminal phase of their illness. When bodily
healing is no longer possible, pastoral care is still able to enrich a terminal patient’s
life in a meaningful way.
Terminal patients struggle with life and death for an undetermined time as the final
end of their life comes into view. In this struggle, there is a search for purpose,
meaning, worth, and hope. They don’t always have the words to describe their own
struggles and experiences. Nevertheless, they still have the need to talk to someone
who will listen with understanding. Patients have a need for a partner in conversation
who will not attempt to explain the state in which they find themselves, but who
would rather chaperone them through the painful life experience. The suffering
experienced by terminal patients often cause underlying religious questions to
In the case where effective palliative care is not present, the management of pain
and symptoms is the main priority and the care is focused on relieving physical
symptoms. Patients receive no psychological, social, or spiritual counselling or
support. The result is that the patient and their next of kin lean more on the pastor
and faith community. Psychological and spiritual issues are directed at the pastor
with the expectation that the pastor will provide the necessary guidance. These
issues are frequently strengthened by the relatives and society’s preconceived ideas
regarding health, sickness, cure and healing.
This study investigates the pastoral guidance of terminal patients and focuses on the
necessity of pastoral care in palliative care. The aim of this study is to find a pastoral
model which can provide practical guidelines for pastors and faith communities on
how to effectively support and guide terminal patients.
Dissertation (MTheology)--University of Pretoria, 2018.