Making Healthcare Decisions as Christians

Episode: 
45

I’ve been flying a lot recently. I especially enjoy the clear days when I can survey an entire landscape from the air. “Oh, that is how we drive to South Bend.” On the ground, I need a map to navigate safely from Point A to Point B.

Today, I’d like to take a big picture look at how we can safely navigate healthcare decisions. In past commentaries, we’ve looked at the ethical issues of a number of specific medical technologies. Let’s take a step back from the specifics and look at four questions we should ask to make sure our medical choices align with our faith values.

The first question is obvious: “Do I have all the information I need to make a well-informed decision?” All too often we do not have all the facts or are blind to the potential outcomes of our decisions. For example, many Christians have used in vitro fertilization as a treatment for infertility without realizing that embryos are commonly destroyed as part of the process, or that they may end up with “leftover” frozen embryos. As recipients of healthcare services we should be wise decision makers, seeking as much information as possible first.

Second, ask, “Am I being a good steward of my resources?” This question needs to be asked when considering expensive elective medical procedures, such as cosmetic surgery, which can be expensive and time consuming. A facelift, for example, starts at $7,000 and that’s just for the surgeon’s fees.[1] Its effects last only about ten years, and it doesn’t stop you from aging.[2] What we choose to spend our money on is a direct reflection of what we value.

We should also ask, “How could my decision affect others?” Our choices, even for the best reasons, may unintentionally hurt others. For example, going to another country such as India or Thailand for cheaper medical procedures could divert basic healthcare resources from those who need them the most. As Christians who seek to “love our neighbor as ourselves” we should be concerned with the potential impact of our choices on others.

Finally, “Will my decisions affirm the value and dignity of all human life?” This is a question we should ask ourselves when we approach the use of any technology. Paid organ donation, embryonic stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide are all practices which either treat humans as a medical resource or intentionally destroy human life. Practices such as these fail to honor the inherent dignity and value of all humans throughout their life span.

We demonstrate what we believe and what we value by the choices we make. Understanding how our Christian faith should influence our medical decisions is “everyday bioethics.” These questions are only a start. It takes time and determination to develop our “moral compass.” We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we seek to live our lives in accordance with the values our faith.

So, the next time you fly, think about the big picture of your journey and the four-question roadmap to get you there.

 


[1] The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, “2009 National Average for Physician/Surgeon Fees Per Procedure,” http://www.surgery.org/consumers/consumer-resources/frequently-asked-questions/cost-surgeon-fees-per-procedure (accessed February 14, 2011).

[2] http://www.realself.com/question/how-long-does-facelift-last. This website puts the cost at $11,800. See also Sundine, Michael, Vasileios Kretsis, and Bruce Connell,  “Longevity of SMA Facial Rejuvenation and Support," Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery  126, No. 1(July 2010): 229-237. http://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2010/07000/Longevity_of_SMAS_Facial_Rejuvenation_and_Support.28.aspx

 

 

Everyday Bioethics Audio Commentary Album Art