A new guidance from Britain's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is encouraging health and care workers to talk to dying patients about their spiritual and religious preferences.
The guidance stated that hospital staff members need to do more to ensure that the cultural, religious or social preferences of patients are addressed, apart from their medical needs.
The advice came after a 2016 report revealed that the spiritual wishes of patients were only documented in just one in seven cases, where communication was possible, according to Telegraph.
"Control of pain and other distressing symptoms is very important for dying people, but good end of life care goes far beyond that," said Sam Ahmedzai, emeritus professor of palliative medicine and a specialist member of the NICE quality standard committee.
"It includes asking about the dying person's spiritual, cultural, religious and social preferences. Only by attending to these issues and concerns can we deliver truly individualised care for each person and those important to them," he continued.
The professor further noted that the treatment of the dying was crucial not just to the patient, but also to family and friends.
The Church of England welcomed the advice, saying it could reduce anxiety about death if the patients felt able to talk about their religious views.
"High quality end of life care is one of the most important ways in which society can show that it values every individual for themselves and not just for their economic usefulness," said Rev. Dr. Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs.
He stated that chaplains are available to dying patients who wish to discuss questions about religion and spirituality. He further noted that chaplains of different religions and beliefs can provide support for healthcare staff in broaching questions about religion with the patients.
NICE stated that there are about half a million deaths in England each year, three-quarters of which are anticipated by medical staff.
The guidance stated that patients who display symptoms that suggest they may be in the final days of life need to be monitored to determine if they are nearing death, stabilizing or recovering, and suggested that the personnel should help patients and relatives prepare for the prospect of death.
Some patients can experience difficulty in swallowing during their last days. The guidance also includes a review on how health workers may need to anticipate the need for the patient to switch from an oral medication to an injected one so that they are not left without essential medication.