By: Mark B. Blocher
This article is excerpted with permission from a forthcoming book by Mark Blocher, Missional Medicine: Restoring the Soul of Healthcare, due out in September. Watch this space for updates on how to obtain copies, or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark's vision is for the Christian community to counter the abortion mentality as influenced by Planned Parenthood and others through medical care that is both professionally excellent and biblically faithful.
Missional medicine is life-affirming (or pro-life) medicine, and when a suffering patient receives care from a physician who embraces that ethic, undesirable, tragic circumstances can be mitigated....
For this reason, missional medicine’s ethics are grounded in transcendent biblical truths, which are not dependent on the whims of individuals or cultures. Only Christianity provides the necessary moral foundation to guide the ethical practice of human medicine. This is a strong claim that is justified by the fact that the Christian medical ethic has served humankind well for over two thousand years. Since the central question of ethics is how we as individuals should order our lives in relation to one another, a biblical worldview provides the foundational beliefs and values that help hurting people find meaning and purpose in sickness, suffering, disability, and death. Christianity provides a view of the human person and her life upon this earth that takes her beyond the circumstances of a serious, life-threatening illness. A Christian medical ethic rejects the notion that helping someone in pain take their own life is a moral act.
We do not need to look far to observe the moral fracturing in modern medicine that arises when decision makers abandon Judeo-Christian medical ethics and use a secular casuistic approach. Legalized abortion is just one form of medicalized killing that has been justified on grounds that it is just another medical procedure since the mother’s autonomy negates her unborn child’s right to live. Upon what moral foundation does both the doctor and the pregnant woman get to make such a judgment?
According to the prevailing medical culture’s code of medical ethics, bolstered by a wrongly decided Supreme Court case (Roe v. Wade), the mother’s autonomous decision is what makes it moral. In plain terms, this is morality by sheer personal fiat. But when killing takes place under the auspices of a respected institution like medicine, it is made to look and feel less like killing and therefore morally acceptable.
For a Christian doctor to push back on this requires the courage of conviction that comes from adhering to a medical ethic where the life of the unborn child is valued at least as much as the autonomy of the mother. Of course, the proponents of the woman’s “right to choose” will claim that the doctor is “imposing” her religious beliefs on this woman, while begging the question, “whose beliefs are being imposed on the unborn child?”
If we have learned anything from the medical mainstreaming of abortion, it is that killing millions of unborn babies has largely lost its ability to shock us, and its educational effect has been to treat the unborn as if they are mere extensions of their mothers; a view that has no scientific standing. A physician who advocates for both of her patients, mother and child, is as scientifically evidence-based as it gets. Abortion for the sake of advancing a woman’s “freedom” is not a medical decision; it is the imposition of a purely secular ideology.
A Christian medical ethic not only applies to the entrance gates of life but the exit gates as well. It is worrisome that despite most Christians identifying themselves as pro-life on abortion, they are less so when it comes to end-of-life issues. Although space does not permit a full exposition of this issue here, recent public opinion surveys suggest the pro-life ethic is more tenuous among Christians on questions such as physician-assisted suicide, terminal sedation, and even euthanasia.1 If the church continues to avoid medical ethics teaching for its medical professionals, as it has for so many years, we can expect an even greater departure from a life affirming ethic among believers and Christian medical professionals.
Ethical controversies in medicine are a regular occurrence these days. One example is an internet posting by a California photographer that featured an online auction for the ova (eggs) of models. Several media sources reported that people were bidding up to $150,000 for the egg of a “beautiful” woman in order to enhance their chances of having a “beautiful” child.2 This bizarre story held our attention for a few days, but not much longer than that, because we have grown accustomed to all sorts of ways to manipulate human procreation to satisfy personal desires. We can claim that we allow doctors to do this to help infertile women (we no longer restrict this to married, heterosexual couples), however, having “medicalized” childlessness, we have introduced an unsustainable ethic in medicine, that is, the ethics of patient demand. Medically assisted procreation is just one example of doctors being called upon to provide medical “cures” for situations that are not medical.
As society wrestles with the ethical issues arising from medical research, technology, and their implementation into clinical medicine, we must recognize these debates take place in a culture where a prevailing Judeo-Christian moral consensus is collapsing. Scientism’s exaggerated trust in the ability of science to answer every question, decide every issue, and define every area of life is what infects too much of the modern science establishment, and by extension, much of the healthcare community itself. Within this conflict-ridden secular environment there is a need for moral clarity and Christian dissidence; indeed, a dissident Christian medical ethics movement lived out in a distinctively Christian healthcare system.
A missional Christian medical community will often take moral positions that are both unwelcome and ridiculed. The ethically disruptive Christian physician acknowledges that a distinctively Christian moral commitment in her clinical practice carries with it the likelihood of conflict and is prepared to accept whatever consequences may come as a result of it, whether that is less income, isolation by professional colleagues, or ridicule from prospective or former patients.
Although most medical practitioners profess commitment to the important role of medical ethics, many become remarkably pragmatic to avoid conflict with patients or employers. This is understandable in many ways. After all, Christians are called to be humble servants, not moral ogres forcing others to adopt Christian values. Prudence is warranted, but we must not sacrifice principle for prudence when core Christian values are at stake. Taking this approach can make it more difficult for the committed Christian practitioner or nurse to remain engaged in “mainstream” medical practice, while remaining faithful to a Christian moral tradition. Consequently, these courageous individuals should be able to find affirmation and support from the body of Christ.
1. See M. B. Blocher (1999) The Right to Die: Caring Alternatives to Euthanasia. Chicago: Moody Press.
2. C. Goldberg. “On Web, Models Auction Their Eggs to Bidders for Beautiful Children” New York Times, October 23, 1999, A-11.
Mark Blocher, is the President/CEO of Christian Healthcare Centers. As a faith-based, not-for-profit organization operating independently from the constraints associated with traditional insurance reimbursement, CHC is free to focus exclusively on patients and their wellness–physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash