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.