Case Study: Healing and Autonomy
Under the Christian narrative and Christian vision, what sorts of issues are most pressing in this case study?
Should the physician allow Mike to continue making decisions that seem to him to be irrational and harmful to James?
According to the Christian narrative and the discussion of the issues of treatment refusal, patient autonomy, and organ donation in the topic readings, how might one analyze this case?
According to the topic readings and lecture, how ought the Christian think about sickness and health? What should Mike as a Christian do? How should he reason about trusting God and treating James?
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Case Study: Healing and Autonomy
Mike and Joanne are the parents of James and Samuel, identical twins born eight years ago. James is currently suffering from acute glomerulonephritis, kidney failure. James was originally brought into the hospital for complications associated with a strep throat infection. The spread of the A streptococcus infection led to the subsequent kidney failure. Jamesâ€™ condition was acute enough to warrant immediate treatment. Usually cases of acute glomerulonephritis caused by strep infection tend to improve on their own, or with an antibiotic. However, James also had elevated blood pressure and enough fluid buildup that required temporary dialysis to relieve.
The attending physician suggested immediate dialysis. After some time of discussion with Joanne, Mike informs the physician that they are going to forego the dialysis and place their faith in God. Mike and Joanne had been moved by a sermon their pastor had given a week ago, and also had witnessed a close friend regain mobility when she was prayed over at a healing service after a serious stroke. They thought it more prudent to take James immediately to a faith healing service instead of putting James through multiple rounds of dialysis. Yet Mike and Joanne agreed to return to the hospital after the faith healing services later in the week, and in hopes that James would be healed by then.
Two days later the family returned, and was forced to place James on dialysis, as his condition had deteriorated. Mike felt perplexed and tormented by his decision to not treat James earlier. Had he not enough faith? Was God punishing him or James? To make matters worse, James kidneys had deteriorated such that his dialysis was now not a temporary matter, and was in need of a kidney transplant. Crushed and desperate, Mike and Joanne immediately offered to donate one of their own kidneys to James, but they were not compatible donors. Over the next few weeks, amidst daily rounds of dialysis, some of their close friends and church members also offered to donate a kidney to James. However, none of them were tissue matches.
Jamesâ€™ nephrologist called to schedule a private appointment with Mike and Joanne. James was stable, given the regular dialysis, but would require a kidney transplant within the year. Given the desperate situation, the nephrologist informed Mike and Joanne of a donor that was an ideal tissue match, but as of yet had not been consideredâ€”Jamesâ€™ brother Samuel.
Mike vacillates and struggles to decide whether he should have his other son Samuel lose a kidney, or perhaps wait for God to do a miracle this time around. Perhaps this is where the real testing of his faith will come in? â€œThis time around, it is a matter of life and death, what could require greater faith than that?â€ Mike reasons.