Young man seeking forgiveness from his friend.

Forgiveness as an Indicator of Health: Part 6

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This series of blogs examines the relationship between forgiveness and health. The following research describes benefits of forgiveness therapy for patients dying of cancer. Young man seeking forgiveness from friend.

Researchers from Meriter Health Services Incorporated in Madison, Wisconsin published a paper called “A palliative care intervention in forgiveness therapy for elderly terminally ill cancer patients.” (Palliative care is the relief of pain, stress and other debilitating symptoms caused by serious illness, easing symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and insomnia. It improves patients’ ability to tolerate medical treatments, and helps them better understand their choices for care. Overall, palliative care offers patients the best possible quality of life during their illness.)

Palliative care is considered an essential part of end-of-life care, but very little research has focused on the importance of the psychological treatment of dying patients.

Forgiveness therapy has been effective in improving psychological well-being and may actually provide a valuable addition to a terminal cancer patient’s overall treatment plan. This study tested the results of 4 weeks of forgiveness therapy in raising the quality of life of elderly terminally ill cancer patients.

Twenty participants were randomly assigned to either a forgiveness therapy group or to a wait-list control group (which received forgiveness therapy in the second four-week period). All participants were surveyed on their forgiveness, hope, quality of life, and anger. The group receiving forgiveness therapy showed greater improvement than the control group in all categories.

After receiving forgiveness therapy, participants in both forgiveness groups showed significant improvements on all categories, demonstrating positive psychological benefits and suggesting that it may be an appropriate addition to treatment plans for terminal cancer patients.

Forgiveness therapy is effective in comforting patients who are dying. God had a broad plan and certainly knew the benefits of forgiveness. 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” … How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:35-38; 42 (NIV)

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.