Christians draw moral authority to make decisions based on the teachings of the Bible. Some Christians believe that God has mandated doctors to carry out medical interventions for their health outcomes while others refuse some (such as the Jehovah's Witness and Christ Church) medical treatment based on their interpretations of the Bible. The issue of consent is at play in the case . Christians belief that children should always obey their parents because that is an instruction from God. This plays out in the process of decision-making as the parents of James appear to suggest that they are best-placed to understand the needs of the child including his medical needs and spirituality. By doing this, Christians believe that they act as moral agents in the family setting. On the hand, doctors consider morality in the context of the safety of the patients. This explains the reason as to why the physician is opposed to subjecting James to religious exorcism. In context, the doctor believes that it is immoral to subject the child to healing services when scientifically-proved mechanisms can be employed to ease the childs pain.
Mike should not be allowed to make further decisions about the treatment of James because they have proved to be harmful and could be fatal if left unchecked. Religion plays an important role in the lives of many people, including Christians. A considerable amount of literature has demonstrated that the religious beliefs and spiritual practices of patients provide a powerful mechanism through which these individuals cope with critical illnesses. They are also critical factors for patients to consider when making choices about treatment practices such as palliative care. Accordingly, research has found that there is a positive relationship between religion and spirituality and the overall well-being of patients with critical medical conditions (McCormick, 2014). However, there are exemptions where religion and spirituality should not be allowed to override science, especially about medical care.
As documented in the case, James' condition has worsened after the parents refused dialysis. This means that the life of the child is in danger. Given this, the right of consent that parents have in regards to their children should be challenged. The physician can do this by arguing that the decision of the parents to take James to a healing service had exacerbated his condition. Making a decision on the best intervention in this situation is not simply deciding on treatment. The medical question that needs to be addressed in this is the case is not as to whether religious freedom and the right of consent have been violated. Rather, how to guarantee the fundamental right to life of a patient who depends on others to give consent for treatment. As such, it is not about decision-making on treatment but decision-making on saving human life (Jackson, Burns & Richter, 2014). As Stauth(2013) powerfully argues, when religious beliefs and spiritual inclinations of the parents clash with the medical needs of the child, medical care should be given top priority over consent rights and religious freedoms.
Another reason that Mike should be denied the right to make the decision for his child is stress. Although transferring the decision about the treatment to the physician raises ethical issues (McCormick, 2014), it should be recognized that living with a child who is suffering from kidney problems can be emotionally exhausting to the parents. As such, they are likely to make desperate and irrational decisions regarding the treatment of their children. In view of this, McCormick recommends that a close consultation between the parents rather than court injunctions can include worker better for the best interest of the sick child.
In this case, there is a conflict between the physician and the parents of James in regards to what is the best treatment for the child. Evidently, Joanne and Mike believe in healing (from God) without treatment while the physician proposes for dialysis as the best healing mechanism. The bone of contention is the asymmetry of information on what constitutes healing. The parents are acting as the protector of James when they chose religious intervention over proven scientific treatment methods. These actions appear to be motivated by a radical interpretation of the Bible that there is always handsome reward from God in every suffering that human beings undergo. Contrary, the doctor does not espouse healing without treatment. However, his hand is tied due to the legal provisions that give parents humongous powers in making decisions about their children. For this reason, the physician cannot prevent the Mike and Joanne from taking James to spiritual healing services. The situation is further complicated when autonomy endangers the life a minor whose health is being influenced by adults who are expected to act in the best interest of the child but fail do so. Moreover, the issue of organ transplant is likely to have a health implication on Samuel, yet the physician and Samuels parents are likely to decide on the procedure. As a result, there is a lack of free decision making for both the parents and the children.
Having a good health is critical for Christians to do daily activities that guarantee their survival on earth. For instance, for one to work on long-term employment, they must be of reasonable health. Equally, a Christian life entails working on a daily basis to fulfill the Gods command that every one of us must work to survive and live a better life (Genesis 1-3; Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).For this reason, Christians should view good health as a vital tool for the fulfillment of Gods mission on earth. In other words, if one is healthy, she/he can be in a position to do activities that reduce the suffering of others which epitomized the ministry of Jesus.
In regards to the treatment of James, Mike should allow the son to go through the best medical treatment so long as such treatment reduces the suffering. The son can be treated as per the physicians recommendation to increase his chances of survival. For one, Mike needs to understand that allowing the child to undergo dialysis does not bar him from conducting prayers for his recovery. God is everywhere and, therefore, it does not mean that the family and religious leaders cannot pray for the child while he is undergoing treatment in the hospital. Additionally, Mike needs to understand that all humanity and all that is associated with humankind belong to God. As such, the scientific tools physicians use to alleviate suffering are a product of the wisdom and ingenuity that God has conferred to man so as to reduce the suffering of fellow men. Accordingly, Jesus ministry emphasized on the reduction of suffering as a show of love for humankind (Mathew 25:31-45).As a show of love for his son, Mike needs to accept the doctors opinion to reduce the pain of the child while conducting prayers and spiritual activities that would enhance his recovery.
Jackson, M., Burns, K., & Richter, M. S. (2014). Confidentiality and treatment decisions of minor clients: a health professionals dilemma & policymakers challenge. SpringerPlus, 3(1), 320. doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-320
McCormick, T. R. (2014). Spirituality and Medicine. University of Washington-School of Medicine. Retrieved from https://depts.washington.edu/bioethx/topics/spirit.html
Stauth, C. (2013). In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide. New York: St. Martin's Press.
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