Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Modern medicine? Pshaw!

FOXNews has a new article that reveals an absolutely apaling statistic: over half of Americans say they believe God can save patients from dying if doctors determined that medical treatments were futile. One third of those surveyed said that patients should have the right to demand such treatment - i.e. the right to demand to be prayed over rather than given medical treatment. And what's more disturbing is this quote:
"When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome."

One fifth of America's medical personelle believe that God can save the lives of those with terminal illnesses.

These statistics disgust me for two main reasons.

Firstly, the belief that God can intervene when doctors cannot is the start of a slippery slope. I can understand that when a person is terminally ill, and there's nothing that doctors can do to save them, family members may be inclined to cling to whatever gives them hope that their loved one will pull through. It's human nature to want to hope such things, and it makes sense that people would look to God for that hope. However, if people really, actively believe that God can send down a miracle and save their loved one better than professional medical staff can, then what's to stop such people from not bothering to seek medical care to start with? If God is more of a powerfull healer than doctors, then why not prey for God to send down a miracle instead of seeing a doctor in the first place? Believing that divine intervention can save the lives of terminally ill patients can very well lead to a dependance on God rather than modern medicine for treatment. If such a trend were to develop, it would be quite a medical disaster. Already, we've seen cases - usually in evangelical families - were people have relied on God to heal their children rather than taking them to see doctors...with fatal results.

The second problem with this is that it greatly devalues the hard work medical personelle do to save a life. If a terminally ill lukemia patient makes a turn for the better, his cancer goes into remission, and it's chalked up to "divine intervention", then the hard working doctors that put so much effort into saving his life don't get the credit that they deserve. Even if the doctors have claimed further medical treatments to be futile, the work they did beforehand, the effort and resources they put into saving his life, becomes devalued. What worth do doctors have when God trumps their work?

I am also disturbed by the number of doctors who believe that God can intervene and save lives when they cannot. I would be very frightened if I were told by a doctor "Well there's not much I can do for you, but if you pray hard enough, God might heal you instead." I see this as going against the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors are supposed to do what they can for the good of their patients, and not to do any harm. A reliance on God to heal, whether medical treatment is futile or not, does more harm than it does good.

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