Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 765–777 | Cite as

Religion and Spirituality in Surrogate Decision Making for Hospitalized Older Adults

  • Kristin N. Geros-Willfond
  • Steven S. Ivy
  • Kianna Montz
  • Sara E. Bohan
  • Alexia M. TorkeEmail author
Original Paper


We conducted semi-structured interviews with 46 surrogate decision makers for hospitalized older adults to characterize the role of spirituality and religion in decision making. Three themes emerged: (1) religion as a guide to decision making, (2) control, and (3) faith, death and dying. For religious surrogates, religion played a central role in end of life decisions. There was variability regarding whether God or humans were perceived to be in control; however, beliefs about control led to varying perspectives on acceptance of comfort-focused treatment. We conclude that clinicians should attend to religious considerations due to their impact on decision making.


Proxy Surrogate decision making Religion Spirituality 




This project was funded in part by an Indiana University Health Values Grant. Dr. Torke was supported by a Geriatrics Health Outcomes Research Scholars Award from the John A. Hartford Foundation and the American Geriatrics Society and a career development award from the National Institute on Aging (K23AG031323). The funding organizations did not play a role in design and conduct of the study: collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data, and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin N. Geros-Willfond
    • 1
  • Steven S. Ivy
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kianna Montz
    • 4
  • Sara E. Bohan
    • 5
  • Alexia M. Torke
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Franciscan St. Francis HealthIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Fairbanks Center for Medical EthicsIndiana University (IU) HealthIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.Daniel F. Evans Center for Spiritual and Religious Values in HealthcareIU HealthIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.IU Center for Aging ResearchRegenstrief Institute, Inc.IndianapolisUSA
  5. 5.Critical Care and Pulmonary MedicineCommunity Hospital NetworkIndianapolisUSA
  6. 6.Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA

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