Healing and Autonomy

The case study presents a frequent conflict between conventional medical treatment and spiritual beliefs that affect medical decision-making. In this case, Mike’s decision to opt for prayer healing instead of temporary dialysis has influenced his son’s condition and created a need for a kidney transplant. Mike is now contemplating whether to rely on religion or conventional, evidence-based medicine. The physician is also in conflict, as they need to decide on the recommended treatment and future communication with the child’s parents. The paper will seek to define the fundamental concepts involved in the case, explain the situation, and propose solutions based on biomedical ethics.

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Christian Narrative and Christian Vision

The Christian narrative and Christian vision are evident in the case study, as Mike openly expresses his beliefs about health care and the role of spirituality in it. The central concepts that arise in the case of Christianity are prayer healing, suffering, and abstinence from treatment. Firstly, prayer healing is a significant concept in Christianity, as many Christians believe that illnesses can be alleviated at God’s will (Alberta Health Services [AHS], 2015). Thus, it is not uncommon for Christians to rely on faith healers and prayers to achieve and maintain health. However, it is also notable that the Christian doctrine does not forbid conventional medical treatment (AHS, 2015). Thus, Mike’s decision to rely on prayers and faith healing is guided by his interpretation of Christianity rather than the Christian narrative itself.

Secondly, suffering is among the core tenets of the Christian narrative. The ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus is viewed positively, and thus people’s attitudes to suffering are different than in other religions. Christians often see hardship and suffering as a test of their faith rather than as a punishment for their sins (AHS, 2015). It is also believed that enduring hardship and suffering can help people to understand God’s ways, thus contributing to their spiritual journey. Therefore, the notion of turning to faith at times of suffering is a part of the Christian vision.

Finally, abstinence from medical treatment can be seen as a product of Christian beliefs about suffering and prayer healing. Instead of accepting treatment that provides immediate relief, people choose to experience suffering, thus relating to the image of Jesus. However, the attitude toward medical treatment and the comfort it gives also differs among the different branches of Christianity. For example, Catholicism argues for the rejection of therapy “due to it being too burdensome, risky, ineffective or disproportionate to the expected outcome” (AHS, 2015, p. 33). However, Catholicism encourages treatment that improves patients’ quality of life and longevity, including organ transplantation. In the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity, implantation of animal organs is forbidden, whereas interventions that improve health without causing harm to others are supported (AHS, 2015). Therefore, abstinence from medical treatment, including dialysis, is not part of the Christian faith.

Physician’s Actions

Physicians and other health professionals have a significant impact on patients’ decisions, as they can provide information and guidance necessary to make choices regarding treatment and prevention. In the present case, the patient is Mike’s son, and thus the physician should seek to provide advice to Mike. Forbidding Mike to make faith-based treatment decisions would not be possible due to religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws (Antommaria et al., 2013). Instead, the physician should seek to share their knowledge about the treatment and advise Mike to proceed with kidney transplantation.

As evident from the analysis of core issues, a treatment contradicts the Christian vision if it is harmful to others, has high risks, or is ineffective. Therefore, the physician should provide Mike with information about the risks and benefits of the treatment. Also, it would be useful to outline the effects of kidney donation on the patient’s brother to reassure Mike that it is a relatively safe procedure that would have few adverse effects on his quality of life. Indeed, although kidney donation is associated with regular surgery risks, the possibility of serious long-term risks is rather low (Maggiore et al., 2017). Apart from informing about the risks and benefits of the procedure, it would also be useful to analyze it from a spiritual point of view. Compassion, service, and charity are among the fundamental tenets of Christianity, and thus organ donation can be viewed as part of Mike’s son’s spiritual journey.

Analyzing the Case

To analyze the case, it is critical to consider the various options and viewpoints, as well as to investigate their sources. The physician’s position regarding treatment is clear and supported by clinical evidence. A kidney transplant will have a positive effect on James’ quality of life, health, and longevity, and is thus the preferred treatment option. Mike’s motives, on the other hand, are drawn not from the Christian doctrine itself, but a sermon by his pastor and anecdotal evidence. Treatment refusal based on such evidence will harm James, causing severe disability or death.

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The case also relates to the topic of patient autonomy, as discussed in the readings. Typically, patient autonomy is perceived as one of the primary values in culturally competent care (Louw, 2016). Care providers should respect patient autonomy as long as a patient is physically and mentally capable of making informed decisions about their health. In the present case, the patient is a minor, and he is represented by his parents. Therefore, one should also consider the issue of patient autonomy in the context of underage patients.

Christianity and Health

Christians’ beliefs about health and sickness are rather complex but can be narrowed down to three core ideas. First of all, life and health are a gift from God that should be maintained by the Christian Doctrine. Secondly, sickness is part of a person’s spiritual journey, as enduring hardship allows a Christian to relate to Jesus. Thirdly, medicine is part of God’s gift to humans, and should thus be used to promote health. According to Christian Enquiry Agency (2018), “Christians rejoice in all the things that bring health working together, whether they are natural, medical or prayerful” (para. 7). Therefore, as a Christian, Mike should rely on medical treatment while also praying for them to work and cause no harm to his second son. This option would allow Mike to save his son’s life while also conforming to the Christian vision of health and healing.


All in all, the case presents an example of a significant issue in biomedical efforts and allows reflecting on the role of spirituality in medical decision-making. Based on the analysis, it appears that Mike’s reasoning somewhat contradicts the Christian doctrine. Therefore, the physician should seek to provide information about treatment while also advising Mike that it adheres to the Christian vision. By cooperating with the parent and engaging in dialogue rather than taking radical action to oppose Mike’s judgment, the physician will be able to provide culturally competent care that serves the patient’s best interests.


Alberta Health Services (AHS). (2015). Health care and religious beliefs. Web.

Antommaria, A. H. M., Weise, K. L., Fallat, M. E., Katz, A. L., Mercurio, M. R., Moon, M. R., … Baker, A. (2013). Conflicts between religious or spiritual beliefs and pediatric care: Informed refusal, exemptions, and public funding. Pediatrics, 132(1), 962-965.

Christian Enquiry Agency. (2018). Illness. Web.

Louw, B. (2016). Cultural competence and ethical decision making for health care professionals. Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(2), 41-41.

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Maggiore, U., Budde, K., Heemann, U., Hilbrands, L., Oberbauer, R., Oniscu, G. C.,… Abramowicz, D. (2017). Long-term risks of kidney living donation: Review and position paper by the ERA-EDTA DESCARTES working group. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 32(2), 216-223.

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