Ethics in da House

Posted: 9 August, 2009 in Uncategorized

Recently I’ve been busy with a bioethics assignment for varsity discussing informed consent. I was chatting to my dad about a few things with particular reference to good ol’ Dr House and his peculiar brand of ethics. If you’ve had any exposure to House, you’ll know that he respects one set of rules – his own. When those coincide with societal norms, its only because it serves his purposes best. He lives to solve the puzzle of a difficult medical case, but let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt – he does what he believes is in the best interests of his patients (albeit against their will at times). I’ve noted on more than one occasion that to do the ethical thing often means allowing your patient die. House has proved time and time again that sometimes the patient’s good health depends on the physician putting his own neck on the line by ignoring ethics completely.

My dad and I were chatting and I told him about this conclusion I’d come to. He gently reminded me of something I’d forgotten because I had my “medical hat” on. Dr House is labouring under the major premise that life is preferable to death.

Sound strange? That’s because the world takes this for granted, for a good reason. But for the Christian this certainly ought not to be the case! “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Cor 15:19. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Death for an unbeliever is a scary thing indeed! Dying outside of Christ means an eternity in hell! Living is certainly preferable to dying! But the believer doesnt need to fear anything because he is not of this world, he is merely passing through. Now is the time to work, and suffer as a stranger – eternity will absolutely trump every aspect of life on earth in this sin-cursed world!

So what then is to be the worldview of a physician with regard to his patient? Should his ultimate goal be the preservation of life at all costs?

I think the answer is yes. Yes because that is his job – his is an instrument of God to aid in healing. It should be his chief concern just as a pilot’s is keeping the plane in the air. Yes because the majority of his patients are still dead in their sins, and will end up in hell unless God does a miracle in their lives before they pass on.

BUT a Christian doctor ought also to realise that for a believer death is glory! Learn from Job that suffering (and in this case, disease and death) is a tremendous tool that God uses to get our attention. To the believer, it is sanctification – and to the unbeliever it may be the first knock of the hand of God crashing into the door of his stony heart to bring new life and save him from an eternity apart from God! It may be the catalyst which results in the turning of death from being his biggest fear, to the gateway of eternal life!

Preservation of life at all costs?

No – the goal of a physician is ultimately the same as any other believer – to bring God all the glory, whether it be in healing and salvation, or palliative care during affliction and death!

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