UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring spiritual and psychological issues at the end of life Kuhl, David R.


The purpose of this study was to explore spiritual and psychological issues as experienced by persons who know they have a terminal illness. An existentialphenomenological method was chosen to understand and articulate the structure and meaning underlying the experience of living with the knowledge that one has a terminal illness. The study had its genesis at the bedside(s) of people who were dying, yet living or living, yet dying. The experience of knowing one has a terminal illness serves to bring life and consciousness to those who may have otherwise continued to live unconsciously, to exist in a potentially weary and dormant state, oblivious to the fact that life was passing them by. The evidence of experience of knowing what it means to have a terminal illness exists in the words and expressions of the twenty-one people who graciously participated in this study as co-researchers. They have given testimony of their own experience to those of us who seek to understand that experience, to understand what it means to have a terminal illness, to confront one's end to life as it is known, to embrace life or to prepare to die. For some it was a single in-depth interview, for others there were numerous indepth interviews over the course of two to eleven months. Eight of the twenty-one coresearcher narratives were presented in this study. Each interview was recorded by audio and video tape, the former being used for transcription. Subsequently, transcriptions were reviewed for accuracy. As a measure of trustworthiness, themes were identified by the principal investigator and presented in the context of the narrative to the coresearchers who confirmed the data and validated the themes. Implications based on the themes identified in this study are presented under theory development, professional practice and future research. One of the strongest implications pertains to clinical practice in that the results could serve as the framework for a palliative care program which models palliative care as defined by the World Health Organization. The co-researchers were eager to tell their stories and to speak their truth with the hope that the care of persons with terminal illness would some day include care of people as whole persons—physical, psychological and spiritual.

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