My last health care post focused on the case of Daniel Hauser, a thirteen year-old diagnosed with life-threatening Hodgkin’s lymphoma, whose personal and familial religious convictions stood in the way of medical treatment. In the public sphere, debate swirled around issues of medicine, religion, and children’s welfare, with the drama being accented when mother and son took flight to Mexico in an attempt to skirt the Minnesota judicial system. This hot topic story came to a slightly anti-climatic conclusion when the pair returned to the United States voluntarily, and chemotherapy treatment was consented to, and begun, shortly after.While this change of heart on the part of the Hauser family brings the story to what seems to be a happy end, many questions are left unanswered. Cases such as Daniel’s, involving conflicts between doctors and dogmas, or other tales of religious woes in the health sector, arise periodically in the media and tend to set off a burst of reactions.
This appears to be the case more often than not when religion and medicine collide. Just this week, a British health care worker had her employment threated because of a crucifix necklace. Similarly, a nurse was fired because, during a role playing exercise in a training session, he recommended a patient go to church to alleviate stress. Issues of religiously-motivated refusal of treatment also appeared again, once in a wrongful death suit in Canada and again regarding an infant in Indiana.
Sadly, in a more extreme case, an abortion doctor was murdered last Sunday while he served as an usher during church service. This kind of story reminds us that the intersection of religion and health care can generate tremendously strong feelings – which in this instance, resulted in the loss of life.
Thus, it is crucial to realize that these instances represent much more than mere water-cooler anecdotes and require greater evaluation than the passing care we tend to offer such blips on the radar. Debates over jewelry, blood transfusions and children are indicative of a greater lack of cohesion and understanding between these two realms. Perhaps it would be best to shift the dialogue from its gossip-rag format into a more in-depth discussion of the greater picture when it comes to religion and health care.