Biomedical Ethics: Saving Life vs. Christian Narrative

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Biomedical Ethics: Saving Life vs. Christian Narrative


Matters of ethics are crucial to human living. They regulate the standard of practice and service delivery in all sectors. Without putting strict ethical standards, rogue service providers might easily exploit their unsuspecting clients. Therefore, it is, imperative for these codes and standards to be enforced and adhered to if a safe environment is to be established. However, the problem does not stop at this point. It becomes worse when religion is part of the puzzle to be solved. The report analyzes a case that revolves around biomedical ethics in the Christian narrative. Specifically, it examines the ethical principles that apply to the case of Mike based on pre-prepared questions.

Pressing Issues in the Case Study

The case presents science and religion as among the pressing issues that conflict when sound reasoning is abandoned and/or faith is picked. The Christian faith believes in miracles, even when it cannot be proved (Munson, 2012). In the realm of medicine, the issue of healing through the help of medical practitioners becomes complicated when patients believe that their strong faith in God might save them from their suffering even without any therapeutic intervention. The reviewed case presents a practical and common dilemma that may be faced when one has absolute faith in the Supernatural Being. In the case study, James’s father, Mike, believed that God would help to cure his son merely after praying. He only needed the physicians to confirm that the miracle had worked, only to be disappointed when the condition deteriorated. This pressing narrative is held not only by Mike but also by several other believers across the world.

Should The Physician Allow Mike To Continue Making Irrational Decisions?

The question of whether the physician should allow Mike to continue with irrational decisions that are harmful to James is a tricky one given that it presents an ethical dilemma. According to Taylor (2015), doctors are under obligation to deliver their services in the most ethical way possible. Observing ethical standards should never be compromised. At the same time, they are under obligation to protect their patients in the best manner possible. Their ethical code of conduct demands that they should be ready at any moment to offer solutions that can help to improve the welfare of their patients.

However, this code is highly challenged by the fact that James (the patient) is a junior who cannot make an autonomous decision. He has to rely on his “significant others” such as the parents for decisions that involve his health. Although he is under strict instruction to protect his patient, the physician may not do so much on his or her own, unless he or she invokes the law that protects vulnerable minors from fanatic parents such as Mike. Just like in the case of vaccination in which most parents tend to resist due to religious reasons, the irrational actions of Mike are equally condemned, both legally and ethically. The physician has the moral authority to compel James’s parents to make rational decisions and/or take positive actions that might improve the health and wellbeing of the child. The fact that James is at a critical stage where dialysis is performed merely to sustain him until when he can have a transplant justifies why the physician must step up and stamp his moral authority. It would be necessary for him to inform the parents about the dangers of their irrational judgments and decisions, including their effects on the child’s health.

Christian Narrative on Patient Autonomy and Treatment Refusal

Both ethically and legally, patients are granted the freedom to make their autonomous decisions when it comes to the kind of treatment they require. They also have the privilege to choose where they should be treated, the doctor to attend them, and/or when they should be treated. This liberty disallows or criminalizes any coercion that could be directed to them by a physician or any person with interest. Munson (2012) indicates that patient autonomy has been a debate for a considerable period, especially in America. It is most evident in vaccination/immunization. Most parents feel that they have the responsibility of protecting their children. They would do everything in their power to ensure their wellbeing is safeguarded. To most Christian fanatics, the best ways they can express patient autonomy is by restricting their children from accessing healthcare and instead opt for prayers. They resort to this solution when faced with such challenges, just as shown in the case. Physicians tend to have limited authority when presented with the challenge of patient autonomy.

Moreover, the patient’s refusal to be treated is another issue of contention that is worth analyzing. Although patients have the autonomy to choose what they want for themselves, as well as their children, refusing to be treated may be an imprudent idea, especially when such a decision presents an imminent health danger. Mike’s move to have his son transferred from the hospital to the church was an outright refusal for treatment.

In the case, having understood the magnitude of the problem, the physician should have insisted that James stays in the hospital. By doing so, it would save his life. The principle of beneficence is paramount and should be regarded at all times, as explained by Taylor (2015). From a critical point of view, the situation would have been less intense had this principle been duly observed. Insightfully, the ethical pressure exerted by these principles makes patient autonomy less significant. Hence, Mike’s patient autonomy is outweighed by values such as respect for life and beneficence among others who are deeply engrossed in the medical and healthcare profession.