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The marginalization of religion in end of life care: signs of microaggression?

Panagiotis Pentaris (Department of Psychology, Social Work and Counseling, University of Greenwich, London, UK)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 14 May 2018




Service users very often interpret and respond to their experiences of death, dying and bereavement through a religious or spiritual lens. However, recent trends in religion and belief have influenced how professionals respond to indicators such as faith. Since the post-war years in Britain, and due to the transfer of services from church to state, as well as the change in the religious landscape, language has largely secularized. When people start addressing religion and belief again, they lack the appropriate literacy to do so, this is termed religious literacy by Dinham (2015). The purpose of this paper is to explore how professionals in end of life (EOL) care respond to service users’ religious and spiritual indicators, through the lens of religious literacy.


The paper draws from an ethnographic study undertaken across hospices in England, UK. In this study, healthcare professionals (HCPs) were observed for one calendar year.


Results show that lack of religious literacy on the part of HCPs may lead to subtle and unintentional microaggression. Three types of indications of microinvalidation have been noted: verbal, non-verbal and environmental.


This paper innovates in offering a first-hand phenomenological interpretation of observations in the field. The research data capture visually the impact of lack of religious literacy, an achievement which adds to the dialogue about service user rights in EOL care.



The author would like to thank all practitioners and patients who willingly decided to participate in this study. Without their contribution, this project would not have concluded.

This paper has not been published before or submitted to another publisher for consideration.


Pentaris, P. (2018), "The marginalization of religion in end of life care: signs of microaggression?", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 116-128.



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