Month: January 2016

Grander RoundsThe Lord Thy Surgeon

Can You Trust Your Doctor?

A patient rolls into the Emergency Department in cardiac arrest. The techs are doing compressions and hooking the patient to the monitors. The nurses are scrambling to put in an IV. Resident doctors are working to intubate the patient. Notes are being scribbled down about what has been done so far as the paramedics give a report amongst the commotion. I stand at the foot of the bed, watching over the action of the organized chaos. Five minutes later, I’m forming a relationship with family members. “Did he have any advanced directives? What medical problems does he have? Has he been ill? What happened? Is this what he would want?” In the crunch, forming trust with family members of a sick loved one may be one of the most difficult tasks an ER doctor can face. But why do they trust me? We just met. Are all doctors trustworthy? Can you trust YOUR doctor?

I don’t mean to call into question the relationship with the doctors that you see but why do we trust them? In the age of more specialization, we hardly know our doctors and they hardly know us. A question that I have heard dozens of times from Dr. Gene Scott sermons lingers in my mind. “What do you want from your spouse or loved ones? (Trust or performance?)” Doctors are human just like anyone else. Mistakes will be made. I think most would say that they could forgive a mistake if they knew that their doctor had good intentions for them. One could want perfect performance (an impossibility) but one really wants to be able to trust their doctor.

The Hippocratic oath made the king and the peasant equal. The healer had sworn an oath to the gods of healing to be a servant to the patient. He would consult and advise in the best interest of those who came to him. Why did the oath become so popular through the years? Because it formed a foundation for trust in the healer. The gods or God bound the healer. The healer was accountable to them.

Perhaps instead, when you are sick, you go to a healer that was paid off by a family member or acquaintance…“(quietly) You know doctor, if so-and-so dies, there may be a new Mercedes or a nice big check in your pocket.” Or perhaps worse, they want you to live… in a vegetative state for as long as possible… If you’re an atheist, cheating to get ahead is really not prohibited by evolution theory. Enjoying the most resources and outperforming others while here is your goal. I’m not exactly sure how an atheist could rationally be a moral doctor. Nor do I know how you could rationally trust one. However, a doctor submitted to God has a basis for your trust. His integrity is guarded by the One from whom integrity comes.

When we are talking about “trust”, we are really talking about “faith.” Dr. Scott always described faith as “Action, based upon Belief, sustained by Confidence.” This is the “ABC’s of faith.” It is not just a “mental ascent to.” One can “believe” that a parachute will catch you but until you strap in, jump out of the plane, and literally “hang the body” or “faith” (verb) in the parachute, you do not have “faith.” The Hebrew words of the Old Testament for “faith” are words that mean “run to the speaker” or “lean on a staff” or “get under the shelter.” Faith is action and trusting.

Again, Who will guard the integrity of the doctor except the One who is trustworthy Himself? God keeps His Word. He is trustworthy. In the garden, God said to Adam and Eve, “You may eat freely from any tree of the orchard but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17) Then the devil comes along and says, “Surely, you will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be divine beings who know good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5)

Two things to think about: 1. Everywhere was life and God was speaking about death. After the fall, everywhere is death and God is speaking about life. 2. Adam and Eve only knew life and living in it. They had no idea what death or evil was.

Ultimately, this comes down to whose word will you place your trust in? Is God’s Word trustworthy? Or the serpent’s? Now, Adam and Eve fell short of God’s expectation to have relationship with Him. They broke the covenant with God. Now some may ask, “Why can’t God just forgive their sin and change His mind? Perhaps God says, ‘Well, you couldn’t do without eating from that tree, but I will change my mind, if you only don’t go into those waters, you won’t die.’” The problem with this is that how would we be secure in knowing that God wouldn’t change His mind again even if we attained such a mark. If God said, “If you eat of this tree, you will surely die,” but then didn’t follow through on the death delivered, how would be secure in the opposite? If one might meet the mark, how would we know that we had attained life? Perhaps God might say, “I changed my mind…if you do this other thing…then you will live.” No security could be obtained.

But this is where God’s greatest gift comes. He provides a substitute for the death we deserve. He provides the sacrifice in Christ. Christ identifies Himself with us. He comes in the flesh and dies for us. As Paul says, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:8-11)

God keeps His Word. He is trustworthy. God is the Judge. If a physician knows that judgment that is higher than any earthly judge is watching over, a doctor must maintain his integrity. And if a doctor falls short, God will keep those who trust in Him.

The original Hippocratic oath starts, “I swear by Apollo, Physician and Aesclepius, Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witness, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this covenant:” At the time in Greek culture, these were the gods of healing. The oath has been modified over the years to just “God.” To the Christian, this is the God of the Bible. God is the One who will keep the physician accountable.

It is amazing how much forethought the original oath had. The original oath has: 1.God as the witness 2. Guarding the art of medicine with purity and holiness, 3. Teaching the art to others 4. Not giving an abortive or suicidal remedy 5. Keeping the sick from harm and injustice 6. Healing for the benefit of the patient 7. Keeping the treatment confidential 8. Honor and happiness for fulfilling the covenant, and the opposite for transgressing it. (Read the entire original oath here.)

I do not know how patients and family members so readily trust me in moments of such great distress. Perhaps, it is my calming voice or sense of security I give them. Unfortunately, I only wish that I had all the answers to their questions or that I could always say that everything will be okay. Everything is not always okay. I don’t have all the answers and rarely do I have a perfect answer.

I think that each of us grasp for security in our times of distress. We will trust almost anything or anyone. God is truly the only One who is trustworthy in our times of trouble. He is our Shelter. He is our Staff to lean on. He is the Speaker of the Word. He is our Healer. He is the Lord thy Surgeon. (Exodus 15:26)

Can you trust your doctor? Hopefully, you can… with God as their Witness.

But, I know that you will always be able to trust the One who is Truth. (John 14:6-7) His Word is reliable and His Word is secure. (Psa 119:89, Psa 119:60, 1 Pet 1:25, Psa 147)

Grander RoundsThe Lord Thy Surgeon

Life Unworthy to be Lived – To Heal or Kill?

Some of the men in my bible study group, “Grander Rounds”, will remember that I started it with: “Why does human life matter?” It seemed like a straightforward question. My desire to finally start the group stirred again by the undercover Planned Parenthood videos in 2015 that were released by the Center for Medical Progress. Whether or not the videos are real or not, I do not want to debate but the questions that they raise are very thought provoking.

In the U.S. and around the world, body parts and organs cannot be sold. Now, legally one can charge for services related to delivery or procurement, but not for the organs themselves. (I.e. you cannot sell your kidney or even your blood.) But what about parts of aborted dead fetuses? For research? Is it not a good thing for humanity and may perhaps save several people some day? Many compared the Holocaust to the abortion situation that happens everyday in the world. Doctors are at the center of both. But what was the mentality of the Nazi doctor? How did those “healers” stray so far to killing millions of Jews?

To answer my questions, I purchased two books on the Nazi Doctors; The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton and Doctors from Hell by Vivien Spitz. I read Ms. Spitz’s book first which was the easier of the two. Ms. Spitz was one of the court reporters on the medical trials at Nuremburg and Dr. Lifton interviewed several of the doctors for several years of his life.

Immediately apparent was that most of the doctors were not strongly ideological with regards to extermination of the Jewish people. A few people at the top like Himmler, Mengele and others pressed the rest who were mostly compliant. A couple decades earlier, the Eugenics movement started in the U.S. Compulsory sterilization and immigration restriction tried to find legal ground but eventually failed. Hitler, however picked up the movement with the purpose to improve the German people and to rid disease within the German people. Bad science with wrong ideas about “Aryan origin” and poor understanding of genetics led eventually to a legal declaration of noble purpose for the German people. Wouldn’t the German people be better off if the disease and weak genes were eliminated?

Who were the first ones that were killed? They were individuals that I think most doctors today would agree are poorly interactive with their environment. Colloquially, some people call these individuals “vegetables.” Schizophrenics and other mentally affected patients or “idiots, imbiciles, and epileptics” were also included. These people were deemed as being Lebensunwertes Leben, or “Lives unworthy to be lived.” The doctors saw the suffering of these people in homes and institutions and some were classified as “useless eaters.” In some sense, the doctors considered these people already dead. It was for them, a humane act to kill these people to free up food for others and to keep them from suffering longer. For the schizophrenic and epileptic, it was helpful to society to keep those bad genes from continuing by forced sterilization. The “preservation” of the race was at hand. However, it was a reversal of “healing” and “killing.” They were “killing” to “heal” the society.

The reversal provided that any unwanted or undesirable group of people found themselves scheduled to be discarded. But aren’t doctors supposed to “do no harm?” As Fritz Klein, a Nazi doctor, put it regarding the Hippocratic Oath and what was happening, “Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind.” A legal justification for the execution of 6 million Jews had been found.

Now, where are we today?   4000-5000 fetuses are voluntarily aborted in the U.S. alone, each day. Now I specify voluntarily aborted because medically speaking, an abortion is any time the uterus does not carry a fetus to a viable state and is lost. We call this colloquially “a miscarriage” when it happens by accident or due to some problem in development. When it is done by choice, we call it “an abortion.”

Words over time develop new semantics and “abortion” carries a lot of emotion in our society. One of the more immediate recognitions of the Nazi community was that shooting the individuals that were chosen for “mercy deaths” gave uneasiness to the soldiers that had to carry out the act. It became necessary to separate and reduce any guilt of the executioner and the judge(s). The person to be executed had to be “less than human” or a “defective human.” A system was created slowly and a series of judges determined who was eligible to have a mercy death such that not one doctor/person/judge/executioner was responsible for the death. The executioners were convinced slowly that these individuals were “less than human” and that the individual’s fate had already been determined by a series of judges. The executioners were separated from the actual execution. Rather than having to look directly at the victims, the victims were put in chambers and gas was instilled. Healthier working Jews were forced to remove and burn the bodies. At the end of the day, it was no “one” person’s fault and of course, these Jews were “less than human.”

We now come to the crux of the modern abortion issue. Are these fetuses human? Is a fetus “a person”? What is required to be a “person”? Scientifically, we know that a fertilized embryo has everything it needs to become an individual human being. A fertilized embryo developing in a uterus has even the correct conditions set for living. The embryo is genetically independent of the carrier mother. This embryo that is not deprived of its developing environment will continue to grow into an adult as its DNA instructs its cellular machinery to do. When does this embryo/fetus become a person? Conception? 12 weeks? 24 weeks (viability)? At birth? If someone murders a pregnant woman, the suspect is charged with a double murder as the developing infant is considered killed as well.

A child may be born struggling in an environment or to a parent without many resources. Are not some of our greatest leaders from meager beginnings? Has the next hero been executed before exiting the womb?

Why does it require a doctor to carry out these abortions? Are not these men and women that swore an oath to “do no harm?” A non-doctor could easily perform the abortion procedures. Where will it lead us as doctors and patients if the Hippocratic oath is eroded away?

My bible study started and purposed itself in answering these difficult questions of life. How can secularism or science answer these questions and more? Medicine is a “moral” activity. Science tells us what “is” but it cannot tell us what “should” or “ought” to be done. Science can tell us how big the cancer is or what the CD4 count is but it cannot tell us what is “good” or “bad” or what one “should” do. “Should” and “ought” are moral issues. If medicine is a moral activity, what “should” we do when it comes to abortion and medicine?

I believe the answer to these problems centers around two major questions. Does all human life have value? Can you trust your doctor?

We will begin to explore these questions in more detail in the next volume of The Lord Thy Surgeon.

The Lord Thy Surgeon

The Lord Thy Surgeon

 

“If ye will hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in his sight and will give an ear unto his commandments, and keep all his ordinances: then I will put none of this diseases upon thee which I brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord thy surgeon.” Exodus 15:26, Tyndale Old Testament 1530.

Have we forgotten “His story”? Has the medical technology of today blinded us to our real purpose as doctors? Has medicine found the root of man’s continued self-destruction and self-rot? Does life have intrinsic value? What is the purpose of medicine if the life’s end is inevitable?

This site is dedicated to seeking understanding with faith as the starting point. Its purpose is to glorify and praise Our Creator who is truly Our Surgeon. Pain and suffering tells us that there is a problem. Pain is a symptom of a deeper cause; a malfunction within. Tyndale, the first translator of the Bible into modern English, put down the words, “the Lord thy surgeon” for Exodus 15:26. In today’s texts, we frequently find “healer” or “the Lord who heals you.” A surgeon works inside of the body to cut out tumors, to open vessels, to stop hemorrhage, and to replace missing/defective parts. It is a sinful heart problem that man faces. Man tries to put salves and lotions on the problem; or worse he buries it under opiates, alcohol, and sedatives.

We are constantly searching for the next 12-step program, cure-all medication, or revolutionary procedure. Perhaps, instead of searching for our own cure, we need to lie down by faith on the surgical table and let the Surgeon go to the hidden places to excise our sin and graft in His faith. (Romans 3:20-24) The disease, chaos, and pain that exist in our lives are only the symptoms of our sinful nature. As Malcolm Muggeridge states, “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” It is only through the healing found in the resurrection of Christ that we are able to have a relationship with God. God’s only begotten Son came and identified Himself with our humanity. Jesus is our Healer and our Surgeon.

Through the posts on this website, I hope to explore the foundations of modern medicine from a biblical perspective. I hope to explore answers and show that faith and science are not opposed. What does it means to be human? How much more can we impact our care of the patient if faith is at the forefront?