Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

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Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

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Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

The case study revolves around Mike and Joanne who are trying to make a critical decision about their son James who is suffering from glomerulonephritis also referred to as kidney failure. James condition was caused by a streptococcus infection, which his parent thought it would disappear by itself but later on, James condition worsens than they imagined which puts Mike and Joanne in a serious dilemma. His parents are Christians, and therefore their religious affiliation puts them in a situation where they must balance between physical and spiritual life. Mike believes that believing in God has a great positive in his life and that of his entire family. Following James condition, Mike and Joanne are faced with a big challenge of either staying to their spiritual beliefs while at the same time make an ethical decision about their son health. At first, Mike decides to withdraw the dialysis process for his son, to seek prayers from the church minister. Because of this decision, James condition worsened complicating the situation to the point of requiring a kidney transplant. This easy will, therefore, cover the ethical issues that the case study presents along with Christianity implications and principles as they associate or relate to ethical decision making in this case.

Pressing Issues in this Case Study

Many issues are burning in this case; there is too much tension between religious autonomy determining what form of care that James need to receive first. At first, the doctor in charge advice James parents to accept a dialysis as their son was into kidney failure. Mike and Joanne, however, decide to let God control the circumstance through following their Christian instinct. However, after two days Mike had to return to the hospital with James condition worsening and many questions in his mind wondering whether God was punishing him or James. Another pressing issue is the belief of spiritual health and healing (Barlow, Walker, & Lewith, 2013). From Mike and Joanne reaction, one can tell that they believe that ultimate healing comes from God will.

They believe that fasting and praying will bring healing. As narrated in the case study, Joanne and Mike decided to prolong the dialysis to place James healing in prayers as they had recently witnessed their church minister pray for a close friend and was healed. The encounter gave James parents faith that their son can as well be healed through prayers and faith. Another key issue that is pressing, in this case, is an ethical dilemma that involves taking a kidney from one child to transfer to another child who actually may not be aware of what is happening. The issue causes serious ethical consideration because Samuel is not grown enough to make his decision about donating a kidney to his brother to survive.

James parents as strong believers in Christ, their faith in God is the driving force of their lives, and they must depend on God to decide everything. They have to struggle this much with the choice of treatment that James needs to receive because of their faith in God. Reflecting on such factors, the doctor also understands why they must struggle with such decision. Their belief that God is morality is their guiding principle. Anything is justified in Christianity because God is always perfect in making his wish. Thus, he does not make mistakes. Thinking from that point of view it raises the issue why God can kill people, maybe we are not perfect but God is always perfect, and we are not supposed to question his will. He is the source of all our lives. Mike thoughts that God could be punishing him or James, clearly portrays his belief that if we sin, God has the right to withdraw the gift of life. God is internal and does not change. Through the scenario, Mike faith lies within his Christianity provision, and he has faith that in the end, God will heal James even without a kidney transplant.

Should the Physician Allow Mike to Continue Making Decisions that Seem to Him to be Irrational and Harmful to James?

It is important that the physician in charge offer Joanne and Mike with all the available treatment options and advice about the expected outcome because he is more exposed to outcomes associated with the kind of treatment that James needs. It is still crucial that the doctor makes suggestions to Mike and Joanne on how they should treat or take James situation. Under this situation, it seems hard for both parents and doctors to agree and therefore the doctor may not tell the parents what they want to hear, other than the pure truth about the situation, while still respecting that they might disagree (Rao, et al., 2016). For example, even after the doctor informing Mike and Joanne the need for dialysis they still chose to postpone the dialysis for a healing service that causes James situation to become worse. The physician cannot make all the decision by himself, and throughout the case, he tries to convince the parent to accept the dialysis, but they are opposed to the dialysis. The physician is there to advise the parents and to treat the patient if the parent does not agree to his advice, he cannot force them to because they are refusing treatment based on religious belief. The only choice for the doctor is to give in to their demand after the lengthy discussion about James situation.

According to the Christian Narrative and the Discussion of the Issues of Treatment Refusal, Patient Autonomy, and Organ Donation in the Topic Readings, How Might One Analyze this Case?

Automatically, concerns develop when parents apply religious beliefs about spiritual healing over medical care for children. Medical care is always considered an essential human need, and yet people may choose religious belief in place of medical care. One may analyze this case as negligence. Dialysis could have saved James from kidney transplant if his parents accepted the dialysis first instead of placing him in prayer healing service. Mike and Joanne were aware of child endangerment through their action because Mike occasionally hangs between dialysis process and religious healing (Johnston, Baty, & Adewole, 2015). Even after the physician suggesting a kidney transplant that was to be obtained from James twin brother Samuel, Mike still believes that God will do a miracle one last time because he believes that God is testing his faith.

James situation reached a matter of life and death in the cause of religious healing belief. The greater faith here should be the belief that James will survive after a kidney transplant. There is no way the doctor could have forced Mike and Joanne to abandon their religious belief or else force a dialysis to James while his parents are not for it at the time. It is disgusting how Mike and Joanne had to let James condition to worsen on religious ground. How could they make that decision to postpone dialysis and further kidney transplant and leave James condition to get even worse? Postponing treatment like that is sometimes awful.

How Ought the Christian to Think About Sickness and Health? What Should Mike as a Christian Do? How should he Reason About Trusting God and Treating James?

First Christians believe that Jesus agrees to heal because he has compassion. Mike and Joanne are waiting upon Jesus compassion to heal James. Compassion is the only thing they expect. Many views exist about the illness. For example, Mike thinks that God is punishing him or his son James. Others believe that sickness is a result of poor diet, sinning against God and bad environment. Of course, Christians may bear great responsibility for their illness. However, Jesus wants us to heal because it is part of his mission and that is why he urged his disciples to continue his work and healing ministry (Jantos, 2016). Mike as a Christian has a right to trust in his faith, and therefore it would be wrong for the physician to insert his own decision. Mike was not supposed to let James suffer that far on the religious ground. He could have shifted his faith into believing that James will be well after dialysis or a kidney transplant. About trusting God and treating James, both must go together. He must trust in God to heal James and on the other hand let James be treated in faith that he will get better after treatment. James situation continues to get worse because Mike believes faith will work a miracle in the end however things do not get better to the point of thinking it is a punishment. Mike should follow doctor advice in treating James and have faith while James in stable condition.

In conclusion, the Bible also says we must have faith, believe and act. Mike is trusting in his faith in God but does not take the necessary steps after believing. He should act and let the physician do the kidney transplant. James would die later if he does not receive a new kidney. His chance to survive is given after kidney transplant. Religious leaders should not convince people that prayers are more powerful than medicine in all circumstances. For example, if a house was burning and someone is inside, and there is a chance to rescue him or her, it would be wise to pull him or her out of danger. How is the situation any different from that of Mike family? It was wise to have James treated first, with faith the treatment will work. What makes the case look like negligence is the fact that the physician could have prevented kidney transplant through early dialysis, but Mike and Joanne preferred spiritual healing that did not work. James condition was complicated by the fact that Mike and Joanne postponed his dialysis.


Barlow, F., Walker, J., & Lewith, G. (2013). Effects of spiritual healing for women undergoing long-term hormone therapy for breast cancer: A Qualitative Investigation. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 19(3), 211-216. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0091.

Jantos, M. (2016). Patient autonomy on a psychiatric ward. Archives of Psychiatry & Psychotherapy, 18(3), 13-17. doi:10.12740/APP/64920.

Johnston, C., Baty, M., & Adewole, C. (2015). King’s College London Student Clinical Ethics Committee case discussion: A patient changes her mind about surgery – should her later refusal be respected? Clinical Ethics, 10(1/2), 34-36. doi:10.1177/1477750914567841.

Rao, A., Hickman, L. D., Phillips, J. L., & Sibbritt, D. (2016). Prevalence and characteristics of Australian women who use prayer or spiritual healing: A nationally representative cross-sectional study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2735-42. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2016.05.005.

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