Should I Stay or Should I Go? What Religion Says About Pulling the Plug, November 2011

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 Last revised: 15 Nov 2011

Date Written: November 10, 2011


Religion can play a large role in an individual’s end-of-life decisions under a living will (also known as an advanced directive or healthcare directive). Many religions emphasize the right to die with dignity, while others advocate for the preservation of human life under almost all circumstances.

Religious beliefs not only affect a person’s end-of-life decisions, but they can also affect an individual’s decision concerning life-sustaining procedures. For instance, when a pregnant woman is injured, some religions generally give preference to the mother while others treat the lives of the baby and the mother equally. Religion can also affect decisions about organ donation, disposition of remains, and the handling of the body after death.

Unless an individual signs a living will, loved ones will have to guess about his or her wishes in the event of incapacitation. Under state laws, unless a living will exists stating otherwise, a doctor can refuse to end life-support. Most large hospitals and state departments of health provide living will forms on-line, but these forms do not express any specific religious beliefs or wishes concerning end-of-life decisions or care.

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Suggested Citation

Goffe, Wendy S., Should I Stay or Should I Go? What Religion Says About Pulling the Plug (November 10, 2011)., November 2011 , Available at SSRN:

Wendy S. Goffe (Contact Author)

Stoel Rives LLP ( email )

600 University Street, Suite 3600
Seattle, WA 98101
United States
(206) 386-7565 (Phone)


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