Lived religion, a good death, and end-of-life care among Evangelical Korean immigrants
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In order to provide optimal end-of-life care for ethnic minority immigrants, it is crucial to elucidate their lived religion, yet existing bioethical literature rarely examines the complexity of the meaning-making process and religious practices among such groups. This qualitative study investigates perceptions of a good death and preferences for end-of-life experience among Protestant Korean immigrants in the greater Boston area. By eliciting narratives about the deaths of persons close to them, it identifies critical themes in participants’ experiences of lived religion. These Protestant Korean immigrants describe death and the end of life in ways strongly shaped not only by their Evangelical beliefs, but also by their Korean cultural heritage. Although all the participants identify themselves as Protestants, their expressed religious practices indicate the complex hybridity between Evangelical Christianity, Korean Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism that is a feature of Korean religion. Protestant Korean immigrants’ religion has been constantly reshaped through their migration and their particular social context. Religiosity and spirituality in their stories cross multiple boundaries. This study disentangles the religious and cultural factors that affect and inform Protestant Korean immigrants’ perceptions of a good death and end-of-life practices. The study included 32 Korean-American Protestant participants, each of whom have experienced the death of a close Korean friend or family member. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews elicited stories of those experiences and the participants’ wishes related to their own deaths, including specific questions about settings and medical procedures. The transcribed interviews were analyzed based on modified grounded theory. The study illustrates that participants’ lived religion and immigrant experiences heavily influence their perceptions of a good death. A blend of Korean Evangelicalism and indigenous Korean religions uniquely intersect when participants consider end-of-life care, helping them navigate end-of-life decision-making. The study also suggests that lived religion is a social determinant of end-of-life care decisions. The data as a whole show that these participants’ lived religion and immigrant experiences (e.g. linguistic barriers, social isolation, economic survival, practical contingencies, etc.) jointly influence participants’ end-of-life preferences.
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