Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Religion and Healthcare - how much freedom should we allow?

I have given transfusions to children of Jehovah's Witness children. Virtually all of the parents consented tacitly by not opposing the court orders we obtained in order to give the transfusions. I never felt bad about that until I visited a web site which refers to JW teaching on the subject as "moronic"

That made me more uncomfortable than you might think, given that I believe they are misinterpreting the scripture.

Why?

Because I can see a battle coming. If ever there is any successful treatment from embryonic stem cell research, I would refuse that treatment. I would refuse to allow my child to have that treatment - even if it meant that my child would almost certainly die. I believe very strongly that life begins at conception and that destroying embryos for research purposes is a great moral evil.

I still think that the Jehovah's Witnesses are misinterpreting the scripture. If a child's life is in danger, and if we can get a court order for a transfusion, I'll still give it. I will have a great deal more sympathy for those parents, though.

9 comments:

Antigonos said...

Do you object to contraception? Logically, you should. All those potential lives not realized. And specifically, the IUD, which prevents implantation of the fertilized ovum?

I think that, just as we no longer save placentas for hormone extraction, embryonic stem cells will be bypassed for a simpler, less expensive method as soon as the technology improves. But without incentive, the technology won't improve, and until it is demonstrated that stem cells can really cure serious conditions, we'll have to work with what we have.

Judy said...

Yes, I have moral objections to hormonal, barrier, and chemical methods of contraception. I'm not going to lobby to have them made illegal, but I'd be glad to discuss my position on that. It's not "the potential lives not realized" but rather the actual lives lost (IUD, for example) and the disruption of the natural relationship between husband and wife.

So far, there has been great success with cord blood stem cells and adult stem cells in finding treatments for diseases. I'd be perfectly happy to continue working with those as there is no ethical concern with either.

Anonymous said...

I once read a statement written that left me cold. It said something to the effect of (and this is by no means a direct quote, it was probably 30 years ago that I read it.) They went after those of a different color, and the elderly, the infirmed and the homeless did not object. They went after the elderly, the ill and the homeless and the non-Christian's did not object. They went after the non-Christians and the Christians did not object. They went after the Christians and I did not object. They came after me and there was no one left to object.

Judy said...

You remember the sense of it, but it starts "First they came for...."

There are different versions and the word Christian isn't mentioned in any of the early versions, although I don't doubt that it was in the one you saw.

If you believe Wikipedia, Pastor Martin Niemöller said one or another version in speeches in the mid 1930's during Hitler's rise to power and destruction of one group after another. His version is Communists, Social Democrats, and Trade Unionists. We all know that things went much further and there are different versions at holocaust museums which mention religion.

littlema said...

Beliefs are very precious to some and not always easy to understand. I was involved in treating a man with a hematological cancer who subsequently passed away who was a JW. I always wonder if the care we had given him was right. I found it difficult from an ethical and moral stand point to give him mylosuppressing drugs without being able to give him the product support that he would require. This family had also lost a son of seven years who had ALL who couldn't go for a bone marrow transplant because of their beliefs. (Not that a BMT would of been a given in saving his life but it may of been a chance.) It was such a sad situation all the way round.

Judy said...

And the product support might or might not have been lifesaving for your patient.

The reasons I can feel even a little justified in overruling parents' beliefs in the NICU are several.

Most of the parents at least have mixed feelings on the subject. Some clearly want the transfusion, but can't give up their families by fighting the elders. And finally, the family who told us that they had made the decision for themselves, but that their baby was not of an age to decide. They helped me more than most. There is division within the JW community about transfusions - but there is also division within the Catholic community about embryonic stem cells.

I'm glad that our physicians and the guardians appointed for our babies do not take this decision lightly. Transfusions to all our patients are done only when the need is clear.

cal said...

You would let your child die for Your beliefs?

Doesn't your child deserve the right to grow up to decide whether or not he agrees with you?

Thank heavens we have the courts to intervene in situations where a person's religious fanaticism outweighs their concern for their child.

Judy said...

Cal,
The way I see it is that I'm not willing to kill someone else's child in order to save mine.

To me, that's the difference between embryonic stem cell research - which is only theoretical, at best right now - and transfusion. Nobody dies giving the transfusion.

cal said...

I understand that Judy.

But I do know this.

That is YOUR philosophy.
YOUR truth.
YOUR belief.

A JW would let their child die, they Have done so, for THEIR beliefs.

You would not want to "kill" someone's else's child to save your own...
But you are willing to kill your own child for Your beliefs.

How is that different then the many JW's who have let their child die because of their beliefs?

How are you any better?

You're so worried about the rights of the unborn child, but your own child you would be willing to sacrifice to make a religious point.

To me, that is religious fanaticism.
And that is scary.