Your My Life, My Decision team in Age UK Hillingdon
Your My Life, My Decision team in Age UK Hillingdon

Sonia Dhillon discusses how My Life, My Decision can help you to ensure your religious beliefs for care and treatment are respected.

Many of the boroughs that the My Life, My Decision Project cover have religiously diverse communities. There are people from a range of different faiths and backgrounds, who all have their own beliefs and ideas about how to live their lives and also how to approach issues regarding end of life.

As a Sikh myself, working on this project has made me ask what does my religion say about how I should approach the end of my life?  And how can I use my legal rights to ensure my religious beliefs are respected?

Sikhs believe that God’s will is always carried out, whether the results come through prayer or traditional medicine. For some, accepting the will of God may be at odds with recommended medical treatment plans. Some believe that death is God’s will, and that we as humans have no right to intervene.Treatment by a health care professional of the same sex is preferable. Sikhs may refuse treatment that necessitates body hair removal, since unshorn hair is regarded with the highest importance. Prolonging the life of a patient in a vegetative state is discouraged.

After my talk with the BME community in the borough of Hillingdon, I was surprised to see how many people were actually open to the idea of refusal of treatment. Many explained that they were just not aware of the legal rights they have in the UK. The idea of what rights they had in regards to end of life rights and choices had never crossed their minds. Speaking to them has allowed them to look at things not only from a religious, but also a personal, perspective.

Many of the older generation will still believe that death is gods will and that we as humans have no right to intervene but I found that speaking to them has made them look at things not only from a religious aspect but from an individual one.

My Life, My Decision aims to help people to talk about their wishes at the end of life. If we can familiarise ourselves with the subject, and not avoid it, we can plan ahead to ensure our spiritual and cultural wishes are respected. The key is to make people aware of their rights and maybe the next generation will feel a lot more at ease to at least think about end of life issues, It is so important to make those around you aware of what you believe in and what your wishes are. Making an Advance Statement would be an important part of this. Although not legally binding, it is a space where you can explain to anyone caring for you what is important to you and how that should be care for at the end of your life. People often find this gives them peace of mind, knowing that at least some of their religious beliefs will betaken into account. Health care providers should always include family members when discussing advance care planning with the patient.

I am open to looking at end of life issues and I am willing to explore what my options are. The Advance Statement for me is very important part as I can include what my wishes are from a religious point of view.