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Bioethics: Medical Help or Christian Beliefs?


Christian discourses have been applied world over by individuals when making vital life decisions. In particular, various issues that have a bearing on a person’s religious standing are better addressed in line with the biblical stance on the matter at hand. Nonetheless, some occurrences, for instance, health decisions, require one to gauge the effectiveness and implications of the available alternatives. In this case, while faith may help in addressing issues related to one’s well-being, the extent of sickness may call for the advice and intervention of an expert in the field. Such interventions may be contrary to what Christianity embraces. However, they may be the best, especially when the issue is a matter of life and death. This paper details the case of a critically ill patient, namely, James, whose parents, Mike and Joanne, are staunch Christians. James’ parents are facing an ethical quandary that requires them to allow the medical practitioner to intervene, as he or she deems fit, or follow their Christian teachings that emphasize the role of prayers and faith in restoring James’ health.

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Critical Issues from the Case Given

Based on the prevailing Christian narrative and vision, the case provided reveals several pressing issues. For instance, James’ parents uphold Christian discourses that emphasize the power of faith in restoring various life predicaments. In this case, such faith is tested because the two have been brought up in a religious setting that teaches about faith as a weapon given to Christians for exercising whenever exposed to issues such as the current case of James’ deteriorating health. Mike and Joanne are aware of various biblical discourses whereby faith was tested and proven to produce remarkable healing results. In particular, James’ parents know the story of the healing of a blind man presented in the book of John Chapter 9 from verse six to nine. Here, Faith worked for a man who had been unable to see for a while, especially when he believed that the mire smeared at his eyes would be sufficient to restore his sight upon cleansing it in a particular river as directed by Jesus. Similarly, since Mike and Joanne acknowledge the power of faith, any contrary opinion for addressing their son’s acute glomerulonephritis and kidney failure may be a pressing issue.

Secondly, the issue of parental love is observable in the given case. Although it is arguable that Mike and Joanne may agree with the doctor to have the sickness treated using the best options possible, as opposed to relying on prayer and faith alone, the inexplicable love they have for James influences their decision to rely on faith alone. They do not wish to witness harsh and painful medical interventions, including dialysis or even surgeries, subjected to their son. In the worst-case scenario, the pain inflicted by these procedures may result in the untimely demise of James. In line with findings from the article by Katz, Madjar, and Harari (2015), parents’ support for their ailing kids contributes significantly to the healing process. In the current case, Joanne and Mike believe that showing James some parental love may help to heal him, as opposed to allowing the health officer to apply methods that may cause unnecessary hurting to this patient.

Mike’s Illogical Decisions and the Doctor’s Role

The case provided presents a critical issue regarding whether the doctor needs to permit Mike to proceed to make unfounded decisions at the expense of his son’s health. This state of affairs introduces the need for examining the position of medical practitioners in restoring patients’ well-being, including whether they (doctors) are allowed to strictly follow their (patients) religious standing on issues concerning their health. In the current scenario, Mike wants the doctor to allow him and his family to take their son back home where they expect to exercise prayer and faith to initiate the healing process. The bible that Mike relies on also stipulates various scenarios that doctors have been given the mandate to intervene using their expertise, irrespective of patients’ religious backgrounds. In particular, Luke Chapter 5 verse 31 gives patients the opportunity to seek medical attention from experts such as doctors who rely on such God-granted gifts to re-establish healing to patients, including James. Similarly, in a study by Goozee (2013), health professionals are viewed as individuals who God uses to manifest His power to re-instate patients’ well-being. Hence, based on this awareness, Mike should not be allowed to make illogical decisions that hinder James’ healing process. Instead, the medical officer should intervene by prescribing procedures such as dialysis or organ transplant to address the issue of acute glomerulonephritis and kidney failure.

Treatment Rejection, Patient Autonomy, and Organ Donation

Since Christianity does not allow patients to reject doctors’ interventions, the issue of treatment rejection presented in the current case should not be allowed. The above section has revealed that indeed biblical teachings encourage the sick to seek the attention of health professionals, regardless of their religious backgrounds. Any patient refuting the essence of opting for doctors’ professional services may be penalized for putting their health at stake. In particular, many Christian teachings acknowledge Jesus as the “Master Physician” (Exodus 15:26) whose healing work was attested by many people in all places He visited. Hence, Mike and Joanne may be viewed as ignorant of stipulations raised in the same bible they uphold. Regarding patient autonomy, the article by Ringstad (2016) emphasizes the need for medical practitioners to allow sick people the room to give their views concerning their health. Such opinions should be made without the influence of their (patients) relatives or friends.

However, it is crucial to realize that patients cannot be allowed to entirely define what doctors should do to them. In this case, factoring in patients’ autonomous opinions, the ultimate decision should come from physicians who are well equipped to know the best way to approach the health issue brought to them. Although organ donation is prohibited in various jurisdictions because of the ethics linked to it, many studies, including Iltis (2015), acknowledge the need for such medical procedures. The bible too allows organ donation through its teachings presented in the book of John Chapter 4 verse 17 where Jesus encourages people to do what is morally appropriate, including donating parts of their bodies or blood to save the sick. In the current context, Mike and Joanne need to accept the doctor’s suggestion to have James receive an organ, kidney, from his brother to restore his health.

Conclusion: Christians’ Perception of Sickness and Health and Mike’s Reasoning

The case study encourages Christians to exercise logical reasoning when subjected to issues concerning the health or sickness of their esteemed people. They should not be against people such as medical experts who apply gifts given by God to restore patients’ health. In this case, despite being a Christian who acknowledges the power of prayer and faith, Mike should be advised that doctors act as God’s instruments that are meant to address health-related issues the same way he (Mike) is well equipped in handling spiritual affairs. As a result, Mike’s move to disregard the doctor’s opinion may be counterproductive to the extent of resulting in the death of James.

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Goozee, R. (2013). Smart medicine: How the changing role of doctors will revolutionize health care. Journal of Mental Health, 22(6), 580-582.

Iltis, A. (2015). Organ donation, brain death and the family: Valid informed consent. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 43(2), 369-382.

Katz, I., Madjar, N., & Harari, A. (2015). Parental support and adolescent motivation for dieting: The self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Psychology, 149(5), 461-479.

Ringstad, Ø. (2016). Patient autonomy in a digitalized world: Supporting patients’ autonomous choice. Croatian Medical Journal, 57(1), 80-82.

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