Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative
In the contemporary world, Christians of different dominations hold varied viewpoints concerning the issue of healing and sickness. Such is the case given the existence of persons that believe in prayers and miracles as the only source of healing while others choose to rely on both faith and medical interventions to restore health.
A case in point of the same is on exhibition in the scenario of Mike and Joanne, Christian believers. They choose to rely on faith in God for the healing of James, one of their two identical twins of eight years (James and Samuel). By so doing, they deny him the chance of dialysis. However, this does not turn out well prompting Mike to consider the option of dialyzing James. Despite, the success of the intervention, James still requires transplantation to increase his chance of survival. In essence, an analysis of this case study is the center of focus in this discussion.
In this scenario, there are pressing concerns that are necessary for analysis of the case study. Firstly, the case posits the morality of decisions based on the Christian principle of faith. Such is the case as due to the ramification of refusing treatment to depend fully on faith for healing. Secondly, the case study also demonstrates the how reason and faith conflicts when Mike decides to forgo treatment upon relying on belief and not on logic. Lastly, a moral dilemma is also evident as Mike ponders on what action to take following the proposition of the nephrologist to consider a kidney donation for James from his twin brother. The dilemma is manifest, as he does not know whether to exploit this option or wait upon healing from God. Clearly, all these are crucial aspects that one must address on analysis of this issue.
In the context of this scenario, the physician has a significant role to play in preventing Mike from committing a grave mistake that would cost James his life. Such is the case given the moral obligation vested on him to protect human life through intervening to rescue the situation. Consistent with this opinion is the deontological reasoning that encourages an individual to act as a means to an end by taking up his/her moral obligation (Greenberg, Goldberg, & Rodríguez-Arias, 2016). By so doing, one’s action can then meet the requirement of being moral. Similarly, the physician must take up his moral obligation of preserving life at all cost even when it means conflicting with the ideologies held by Mike.
Additionally, the physician must refrain from sitting back and watching Mike make an irrational decision since that is an act of negligence. It is negligence because he has the option of advising the James’ father on why the transplantation is the best shot of ensuring that James has a high quality of life. According to Greenberg, Goldberg, and Rodríguez-Arias, (2016) indication of a kidney donation from a minor is acceptable in the event, there are no other viable donors, and the benefits of donation outweigh the disadvantages. In this case, the two indications are manifest. Thus, the physician must try to explain the same to Mike with the aim of enhancing rationality in the decision made.
In light of the three central issues treatment refusal, patient autonomy, and organ transplantation, the analysis of the case study must cite the reasons as to why the three are wrong or right. Firstly, the refusal of treatment in this scenario is purely on the premise that God will provide healing. In religious terms, Jesus showed that healing is possible in His ministry. However, this does not mean that Christians should stop relying on medical interventions as proposed by the natural law of ethics, which encourages one to let nature run its cause. Instead, one must combine both the medical interventions and prayers to get the best outcome. Consistent with this is the divine command theory that values medical interventions because of their therapeutic effect to one’s health (Vroom, 2013). As such, Mike’s refusal of treatment because of faith in healing is not the way to go if he is to optimize the chance of his son having a quality life.
Patient autonomy is another issue that poses an ethical dilemma in this instance. It is manifest when Mike decides not to follow through with the dialysis therapy for James with the hope of God will heal his son. The autonomy, in this case, is within the mandate of the parent since James is a minor, who cannot consent to care at that age. The autonomy transferred to the parent, however, is not in line with the medical principle of non-maleficence (doing no harm) and thereby causing a dilemma. In moral terms, the autonomy in this instance is not right going by the utilitarianism theory that demands weighing the benefits and drawbacks of a decision before putting it in effect (Beauchamp & Childress, 2012). The merits of Mike’s decision to opt out from the option of dialysis are negligible as compared to the disadvantages. With such revelation, it is beyond doubt that Mike made a wrong choice while exercising his autonomy for consenting to care for his son.
Finally, organ transplantation also results in a moral dilemma since Mike cuts a clueless figure on what step to take next given the proposition of using the kidney from the other twin. He is unsure of whether to rely on faith with the hope that healing will come in his son’s way or take up the option of transplantation. His first choice would result in harsh consequences, going by his experience of forgoing dialysis treatment. On the contrary, the second option is rational as posited by both deontological and utilitarian viewpoints. Such is the case since the decision would come with the advantages of preserving life, which is of the essence in both theories (Vroom, 2013). Evidently, this is proof enough to make the conclusion that organ transplantation is one of the central themes that requires exploration in this analysis.
Christians of different dominations have varied viewpoints concerning God and the issues of healing and sickness. Such is the case given the different ethical theories and principles that they chose to incline their decisions. The two prevailing ethical theories that the Christians are subject to use them include the divine command theory and the natural law theory. An explanation of the two is worthy in this account in trying to explain the drivers of the actions of Mike in this case scenario.
Primarily, the divine command is one of the theories that Christians may use in shaping their ideologies on illness and health. According to the proponents of this framework, the issue of maintenance and promoting health by the doctors is a gift from God. As such, doctors should make efforts to intervene whenever the idea is about life preservation. In this model, the Christians’ decision is on the premise that God commands that human beings preserve life at all cost (Vroom, 2013).
On the other hand, a section of the Christian population, especially the Catholics, may use St. Thomas Aquinas’ natural law of ethics to decide on matters to do with health and sickness. In this theory, Aquinas proposes that nature must run its cause for an action or a decision to be deemed as ethical. Thus, the proponents question the morality of interventions like organ transplantation and family planning that try to stop nature, which descends from God, from running its cause (Vroom, 2013). To them, the best choice is to rely on faith that God will heal one’s condition.
Without a doubt, it is apparent that Mike inclines his decision on the natural law of ethics theory. However, this option does not turn out to be the best since the consequence of declining treatment is more severe to his son than it would have been had he considered the treatment option. Thus, a proposition of what Mike and other Christians ought to think of God, sickness and healing are necessary.
As a Christian, Mike ought to reason that God is the Giver of life and all gifts that human beings possess. Thus, he should consider taking up the medical interventions since all things that the physicians possess transcends from a knowledgeable God. Also, he should consider his options wisely by weighing the benefits and disadvantages of declining the services offered by the doctor. An action of this kind is essential according to a utilitarianism perspective (Beauchamp & Childress, 2012). Had Mike opted using the utilitarianism perspective other than the natural law of ethics, James would have been free from the option of transplantation, which in itself posed a massive challenge on what decision to undertake.
Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2012). Principles of biomedical ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Greenberg, R. A., Goldberg, A. M., & Rodríguez-Arias, V. D. (2016). Ethical issues in pediatric organ transplantation. Cham: Springer
Vroom, H. M. (2013). Looking beneath the surface: Medical ethics from Islamic and Western perspectives. Amsterdam [etc.: Rodopi