Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Miracles, and when Faith, the medical field and Government clash

The picture at left is a stained glass window on exhibit at the Navy Pier in Chicago. I think it represents the bits and pieces which I have been thinking about for the last week or so.

My heart stopped when I heard about the woman who fled with her son rather than be forced to complete a cancer treatment regimen. This is a really tough call. I was sad for her and her son, that this was what they were brought to.

I can understand her fear and concern over her son's first chemo treatment. I've had horrible treatments (trust me, CAF wasn't fun), and I've also had ones which were not difficult to bear (once we figured out what the side effects for me were-- CMF and Taxol were easy). I can't imagine what it is like for a parent to have to watch the discomfort and vomiting which come with the first week of treatment.

I also understand religious convictions about not getting conventional medical treatment. I remember when I was diagnosed the second time, I was talking to one of my daughter's pre-school friend's mother. She is a Christian Scientist, and spoke with me about it. She also kindly gave me a copy of Mary Baker Eddy's book. I believe that God (or the higher spirit if you prefer) can heal. I believe that I am alive because of the intervention of many people who prayed for me.

However, I also believe in medicine. There was a joke which I heard slightly before being diagnosed with cancer, which sort of sums it up for me: There was a guy who was diagnosed with having cancer. He prayed and asked God to heal him. Suddenly, he heard God's voice telling him he would be healed. He went to his surgeon and told him he didn't need to have the tumor removed because God said he was going to be healed. He went to his oncologist and refused treatment because God said he was going to be healed. He told his radiation oncologist the same thing. A while later he died from his cancer. When he reached heaven, he asked God, "Why did I die? You said I would be healed!" God answered, "I sent you my best surgeon, my best oncologist and my best radiation oncologist, and you refused each one!"

I do think that God can work through conventional medicine. I also know that the ultimate healing is death.... I am impressed with the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy even though I have been told by theologians that her theology has some problems. I'm no theologian, but I do admire her incredible intelligence and her ability to move beyond the restrictions of the world in which she was born.

But lets get back to the mom and her son. Is it right to force someone who doesn't believe they should get medical treatment because of their religious convictions? I don't think so. But on the other hand, what was the boy's understanding of this, and how did he feel? Certainly, a 13 year old shouldn't be allowed to make all of his own decisions, but he is old enough to know what his chances are with conventional treatment and without conventional treatment. He's also old enough to understand his own religious convictions.

I am grateful that they came back and that the charges were dropped against them. I'm hoping that he has a full and complete recovery as it sounds like his chances are quite good, although the road to health is not a fun one.

But, it gets back to the intervention of the Government into an individuals choice about their health. Certainly there are other cases where someones misguided religious beliefs negatively impact the children. I suppose that's the point where government intervenes, it is the assumption that children can be negatively impacted by the decisions that their parents make for them. I suppose you could, although it is hardly comparable, say that it is similar to parents believing that it is OK to do drugs and physically abuse children and the government having to step in to prevent it. That's an extreme example, but where does the right of the individual end and the Government's need to interfere stop?

Some people believe that inoculating children against whooping cough and other childhood diseases is wrong based on religious beliefs. There are others who associate inoculations with diseases or conditions such as autism. One of the problems is that individual rights should stop when they start impacting the rights and choices of others.

For example, I chose not to smoke. I resent it when someone imposes their smoking on me by smoking in a closed environment. I have to breath that air....and I had chosen not to smoke. Why then, am I being forced to breath it because of someone else? When you apply this to inoculations, it is a bit scarier, because the individual is not inoculated, then he or she can negatively impact others by exposing them to the disease.....but it is a quandary because I don't think that the government should involve themselves in the religious beliefs of individuals.

Do I believe in the power of prayer? Absolutely. Do I think it has a positive effect on the person who is being prayed for? Absolutely, in fact I also believe it has a positive effect on the person who is doing the praying. I don't care if you call it "God" or a "higher power" or what, spirituality does have a part to play in this puzzle....too bad we can't figure it all out and determine what is right for us to do, both individually and collectively.


  1. What a good and thoughtful post. I agree! And I also want to thank you for your nice post on my blog. I appreciate it. (BTW--I *love* Emerson, Lake & Palmer!) Take care!