Religion And Medicine: A Multifaceted Analysis

Brevi

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I was thinking about the 'christian scientist scenario' thread, and was reminded of an old paper I wrote in undergrad. If anyone would like to read it, I'd be glad to discuss it, otherwise let the TL;DR onslaught begin ;)

Religion has always been a corner stone to which people have looked to for guidance and solace in some of the most difficult times of their lives. For many people who are faced with dire injury or illness, religion can be just as important as the medical care they receive. Religion and medicine have gone hand in hand for most of history, it is only in the past five hundred years that the church has undergone a declination of despotism in the sciences, due to the remarkable breakthroughs and influences of the physical sciences. In point of fact for centuries, the church regulated all aspects of science, medicine and health care with complete ascendancy, to the point that the church was the governing authority that issued medical licenses in the medieval ages (Koenig, McCullough, Larson 3). Historically, it is obvious exactly what role religion played in medicine, but with advances in modern technology and bio-medical sciences, the question “to what extent should religion be incorporated with medicine” deserves careful cogitation.

From a methodical viewpoint, the effects of religion on health, and to what extent, have long eluded scientific inquiry. Both theologists and medical professionals have devotedly and discerningly provided testimony for both sides of the religion-medicine debate, without establishing what capacity, if any should be assumed by religion in healthcare. If religious beliefs and activities can be proven beneficial to the mental, physical, and emotional health, or to substantially reduce morbidity and mortality in a large population size, than religious observance may have extensive essence in healthcare. On the opposing side of the spectrum, if religious practices can be be shown to have adverse effects or be inimical to well being, than religion should remains a distinct and separate entity from medicine, and should not be a consult in making medical decisions, or utilized in the healing process. Religion and healthcare alike provide both prescriptions and prohibitions regulating what should and should not be done with respects to the body and mental and physical well being. Ergo, practitioners of certain religions continuously find themselves in situations where their faith mandates one action, while modern medicine may advocate that the medical advice given by their religion is fundamentally flawed, and evidence based medicine offers a superior treatment plan (Pera, Tonder 177).

It is in the extreme cases in which religion and medicine clash, that the religion-medicine debate becomes paramount. One religion in particular, the Jehovah's Witnesses, is well known for it's strict adherence to the scriptures, as opposed to modern medicine when faced with medical crisis's. One aspect of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith, is that they do not accept blood transfusions, even when the lack of a transfusion means certain death. The Jehovah's witnesses cite Genesis 9:4 as the reasoning behind such controversial medical decision making. Genesis 9:4 reads “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat”. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe this verse prohibits blood transfusions, as they view a blood transfusion to be essentially the same thing as eating blood, because they view it as so similar to intravenous feeding (Rhodes 379).

To fully grasp the significance and consequences of this belief consider the following case study by Nada L. Scotland, M.D, published in the American Journal of Psychology. A twenty six year old woman, to be called “Ms. A” presented to a high risk obstetrical unit after giving birth by cesarean section two days earlier. Her vital signs showed that she was hemodynamically unstable, and she was immediately transported to the operating room. As she was being rushed to the operating room, Ms. A gave verbal consent for all diagnostic and therapeutic measures proven neccesary, except for a blood transfusion as she was a devout Jehovah's Witness (Stotland 304). In the operating room it was determined via a contrast pelvic angiography that a vessel litigated during the cesarean section, had ruptured and was now actively spilling blood into Ms. A's pelvic space (Stotland 304). Due to the loss of blood, Ms. A was mentally incapable of making her own medical decisions. Shortly after, Ms. A's immediate family arrived at the hospital who reaffirmed Ms. A's strict religious affiliation, and that under no circumstances, even imminent death, was a blood transfusion to be attempted. It was explained to the family that Ms. A's life was at stake, and that she would almost certainly die without a transfusion. The family members reasserted their earlier dictations, that under no circumstances were blood products to be used, regardless of the consequences. Unable to believe what he had just heard, the attending physician immediately ordered a blood transfusion under high pressure, to facilitate rapid replacement of blood.

The family members, who had been watching through the window burst in to the operating room, and attempted to rip out the intravenous catheter, through which the blood that would save Ms. A's life was flowing. The surgery was a success and Ms. A was moved to the Intensive Care Unit. Although Ms. A's hematocrit index was currently stable, it was not adequate to support life indefinitely. Furthermore, no patient with a hematocrit index as low as Ms. A's had ever survived (Stotland 305). Without a second transfusion, Ms. A seemed doomed to die a premature death, leaving her five young children to grow up without a mother. A psychologist was appointed to talk to Ms. A and her family, and try to find some psychological condition that would prove them to be incompetent of making a medical decision. No such psychological condition could be found. Several more attempts were made to convince Ms. A and her family to accept a blood transfuse, to no avail. Ms. A died a slow and needless death, and was pronounced dead approximately twenty four hours after hospital admission (Stotland 307).

This case study depicts a clear case in which someone's religion tells them to do one thing, but society and modern medicine tell them to do the complete opposite. To most people outside the Jehovah's Witness faith, the idea of allowing a young, previously healthy mother of five, to die over something as simple as a blood transfusion is incomprehensible. But this action was in accordance with the faith of Ms. A and her family, and therefore they perceived it as both logical and justified. This case raised a plethora of medico-legal, ethical, and moral questions that exceed the scope of this paper. The hospital at which this case took place, did not have any standing protocols dictating how such circumstances should be handled, nor were staff members provided with educational training explaining various religious beliefs and customs, and how they relate to evidence based medicine.

To further facilitate the understanding of the negative aspects of religion in healthcare, it is essential to reflect on one more type of scenario. While Ms. A's case was controversial and convoluted, it is fairly straight forward in the fact that she is a mentally competent adult and therefore able to make her own informed medical decisions, including but not limited too refusal of life saving care. How should cases be handled in which the parents of young children refuse neccesary medical care based upon religious objections? According to one study “between 1975 and 1995, an estimate one hundred seventy-two (172) children died after their parents rejected care on religious grounds” (Hughes 247). The Constitution of the United States of America grants Americans freedom of religion, but at what point must concerned American citizens step in and directly impede upon that freedom? It is highly doubtful that the founding fathers, nor any functioning member of society would view allowing innocent children to die needless, and often painful deaths based on religious objections to obtainable medical care as permissible. This issue gets even more complex when parents do not strictly forbid medical care, but instead opt for alternative medicine and faith based healing.

Thirty nine states have laws exempting parents and caregivers from criminal prosecution if their children die as a consequence of being denied medical care, based on religious objections (Hickey and Lycholm 265). These laws, commonly referred to as “religious exemption laws”, came into effect as a direct result of the political influence of the same religions that were commonly refusing medical care because of their religions. In 1974 the Department of Health and Human Services mandated that the states draft laws that absolve parents who turn to prayer in lieu of modern medicine from both child abuse and child neglect charges (Hickey and Lycholm 267). This act was reaffirmed in 2001 with re- authorization with congress passing the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (Hickey and Lycholm 267).

One of the religions who strongly advocates such laws, and whose members are routinely protected by such laws is the Christian Scientists. Christian Scientists and other religions who are supportive of the religious exemption laws draw their defense on two capitol assertions. First the freedom of religion declared in the first amendment of the constitution is interpreted as “To hold that adults may be Christian Scientists, but that if they are parents they may not raise their children according to Christian Science principles is to deny Christian Scientists the full right to practice their religion” (Hickey and Lycholm 268). The Second Christian Scientist assertion is the argument that they refute the idea that any entity should be able to undermine and to rescind the resolutions that parents make on behalf of their minor children (Hickey and Lycholm 268). Medical Ethicist Kenny Kipnis says “Where it becomes evident that parents, for whatever reason, cannot be expected to meet the standard, the larger community has a duty to relieve the parents of responsibility. . .to the point where the child’s well-being is reasonably assured.’’ (Hickey and Lycholm 268). It is paramount that all children, regardless of birth right are afforded the same level of protection from neglect and abuse, no matter how well meaning or misinformed the parents may be. While the Constitution rightfully grants American citizens the right to practice religion, should it be permitted to stand as a pillar on which to build a case in defense of the deaths of hundreds of children?

Many people may wonder how a religion that willingly allows the death of their children to be a bonafide religion. Christian Science, as a religion originated in February of 1866 after it's founder Mary Baker Eddy slipped and fell on a patch of ice outside her home (Neusner 255). While bedridden after the fall, she was given a bible by a protestant friend. After three days she experienced complete alleviation of her pain, as asserted by her reading the stories of Jesus' healings. Eddy realized that “she and all others were of God, God was the only life, and that the consciousness realization of this reality would eliminate all adverse physical editions (Neusner 225). This event in which Mary Eddy Baker, “healed herself through her mind and God” became the origin of Christian Science and mental/faith based healing.

The refusal of modern medicine by Christian Scientists stems from a few simple, although controversial beliefs. Christian Scientist's believe that God is the one and only reality, and that matter is God's antithesis, or diametric opposite of God (Neusner 258). Most people recognize matter as the fundamental basis of reality, in opposition Christian Scientists believe matter to be false and “belief in it's reality to be the most fundamental of errors” (Neusner 258). Furthermore, it is the belief of Christian Scientists that a believing in matter is the cause of all sickness and death. Christian Scientists therefore reject the premises of modern medicine, as medicine recognizes matter (the opposite of God), and opt for prayer instead, as they believe the healing power of Jesus was derived from his prayer. Christian Science shares many beliefs with mainstream Christianity such as the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God (Neusner 257). Without regard to the accuracy of their claims on matter and God, it is now understood why Christian Scientists have such a strict objection to medicine.

While two circumstances in which religion stands in the way of medicine have now been reviewed and discussed, a brief analysis of the effects of religion on medicine when it is applied is in order. To do so a study on the effects of intercessory prayer, will be analyzed. Intercessory prayer is when someone prays for another person on their behalf. Intercessor prayer is commonly believed to exert positive effects on illnesses and injuries, yet such beliefs are not supported by any clinical studies. One study conducted by Benson et al. Studied the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer, and their results were quite unexpected.

One of the perceived flaws in previous studies was lack of discrimination of whether receiving prayer itself, or the act of being certain of receiving intercessory prayer influenced recovery times (Benson et al. 934 ). To overcome this obstacle and provide the most accurate description of any data obtained, Benson et al. randomly sorted 1,802 patients undergoing cardiac bypass surgery, from 6 U.S hospitals into 3 groups. The first group received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive any prayer, the second group received no intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive any prayer, and the third group received intercessory prayer after being guaranteed that they would definitely receive prayer.(Benson et al. 936).

Participants who were sorted into the first group sustained some sort of complication post surgery in 51% of cases, versus 52% of the cases in the second group (Benson et al. 936-941). Furthermore, the participants in the second group, who were certain of receiving intercessory prayer, experienced complications in 56% of the cases (Benson et al. 936-941). In addition, the percentages of complications in all three groups in this study was higher than the nationally expected percentage (Benson et al. 941). “We have no clear explanation for the observed excess of complications in patients who were certain that intercessors would pray for them (group 3)” says Benson (941). It has been speculated that by informing the patients that people will be praying for them, it reaffirms the idea that something is gravely wrong, in a worse condition than they thought, to the extent that they need people to pray for them. Perhaps by informing patients that intercessors will be praying on behalf effectively stripped these patients of the luxury of denying their medical condition.

Religion has also imposed itself on numerous other medical decisions. A firm opponent to woman's rights to abortion is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be “a criminal act in direct violation of the law of God”. The Catholic Church is not alone in this respect, as almost all religions view the fetus as being carried inside the mother, and therefore being a part of her, which makes it a human life, thereby equating abortion to murder (Lif:censored::censored::censored::censored:z 26). Many women consider abortions for many reasons such as prevention of known debilitating birth defects, termination of a pregnancy resulting from rape, or inability to financially support a child. Many pro-abortion groups recognize these issues and recognize woman's rights to abortion for several reasons. The American Medical Association has declared it's stance as terminating a pregnancy within the first three months should be a decision left to the mother (Lif:censored::censored::censored::censored:z 27).

Euthanasia is a controversial topic, and nearly all major religions have given their input on the subject matter. Surprisingly, this is a topic in which the religious world can not agree upon. Christianity is one religion where some denominations advocate strongly against euthanasia such as the catholic church, while select groups of Christians feel that euthanasia is acceptable in some situations (Jackson 40). Judaism instills the values that all human life is sacred, and it is wrong to do anything that shortens the human life. (Jackson 40). Muslims are in opposition to euthanasia as they view life as a gift given by Allah, and Allah alone chooses how long a person should live. (Jackson 41).

On the opposite end of the spectrum from euthanasia lies the act of prolonging life via life support. The Catholic Church phrases this quite simply saying in the prolongation of life “ordinary means may be used, extraordinary means may not” (Preparing Now n.pag.). Ordinary means constitute medicines and treatments that offer hope, yet are not burdensome in the form of excessive pain, expense or other inconvenience. Extraordinary means are all of the things ordinary means are not; painful, costly, and otherwise inconvenient. This philosophy is exemplified by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who decided to cease cancer treatments when they became 'extraordinary' (Preparing Now n.pag.). However, as with all topics presented in this paper, there is a rebuttal from the opposing side. Many Christians also believe that life is to be sustained.
 
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Brevi

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I am choosing not to edit the original post, but would like to note this is an excerpt from my original paper.
 

mycrofft

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I think this is the first "selfie cut and paste"!

How about a bullet points version?
 

MonkeyArrow

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That is soo odd. The 'Christian scientist' thread also inspired the topic for my paper due today. I chose to argue the less popular side because I felt like I could demonstrate my writing skills and unique arguments better (it is for an English instructor, afterall).
 
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Brevi

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That is soo odd. The 'Christian scientist' thread also inspired the topic for my paper due today. I chose to argue the less popular side because I felt like I could demonstrate my writing skills and unique arguments better (it is for an English instructor, afterall).

Lol. This paper was for a religion class, and was by far one of my favorite papers to write in that specific course.
 
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Brevi

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I second...

As an admitted egotist, I'd much rather you bask in the awesomeness that is my paper and leave your praise in the comments below.

I kid, I kid.

I don't think it is easily put into bullets, but it basically explained a few real life cases like the one in the popular EMTLIFE thread, and explained why these certain religions believe these types of things.
 

UnkiEMT

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Well, the writing style is a little bombastic for my own personal tastes in academic writing, but certainly within the acceptable norms, and even given my own tastes, it's well written (though you got a little clumsy in the paragraph about intercessory prayer.)

I gotta say though, I was really hoping you'd go persuasive somewhere in there, did you somewhere else in the paper?

For me, I think that for adults, it's a matter of everyone having the right to go to hell in a hand basket of their own choosing, for kids though, I think it's child abuse to deny necessary medical treatment based on a religion they had no part in choosing and can't adequately understand...but I recognize that my opinions about religion are rather deviant from the norm, so I make sure I know the laws in the state I'm working in and follow them.
 

troubleshooting92

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Our Religion point of view based on Testimonial, Which is the LAW applicable based on the World Constitutional Rights !
IMG_20190830_120342.jpg
 

ffemt8978

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Our Religion point of view based on Testimonial, Which is the LAW applicable based on the World Constitutional Rights !

World Constitutional Rights?

That's a new one. Guess I missed when everyone signed the World Constitution make it into LAW.
 

DrParasite

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PotatoMedic

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