Biblical Reflections on Modern Medicine
Vol. 6, No. 6 (36)
In the last issue of Reflections (September 1995), an article by Robert E. Wells challenged the label "pro-life" as "Biblically indefensible." In an introductory note, I offered readers the opportunity to respond to his article. Such letters often extend or challenge my own thinking, so I enjoy the interaction. However, this time only one person responded! (See Letters-to-Ed.)
Mr. Wells has certainly brought a considerable challenge to the pro-life movement, as well as a needed clarification. We shall see that errors by pro-lifers(1) may be caused by this mis-labeling.
I prefer, however, the position that "pro-life" is "Biblically incomplete" rather than Mr. Wells' "Biblically indefensible." I begin in a backward direction. In my first book, Biblical/Medical Ethics, wrestling with end-of-life issues, it came to mind that there are four kinds of death in the Bible.(2,3) The first simply is physical death - Matthew 9:18, I Corinthians 15:3, etc. The second is God's curse on mankind for Adam's sin that continues in the unregenerate - Genesis 2:15-17, Romans 7:24, etc.
The third is the death of this absence of life, i.e., death of the believer to his former way of life - Romans 6:2-14. The fourth is the second death or confinement of the unregenerate to Hell forever - Revelation 2:11, 20:6, etc.
By connotation, death is "The End" of that to which it is applied. However, in each of the ways above, death is more accurately separation: the separation of the soul from the body, of the soul from God's Spirit, of the person (soul and body) from its unregenerate state ("old man"), and of the person (body and soul) from God's presence forever. To the contrary, "life" is communion: of the soul with the body, of the soul in the unregenerate state, of the soul with God's spirit, and of the person (body and soul) with God forever.
Thus, God is "pro-life" in a broader and deeper way than physical life. Moreover, the Biblical priority is on spiritual life rather than physical life. Thus, a missionary may place his own and his family's physical life at great risk to go into Third World areas to bring spiritual life to those who are "dead in trespasses and sin." Further, that spiritual life is to be discipled, nourished, and disciplined by the local church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
We see, then, that fighting abortion and euthanasia are secondary on God's agenda. His primary agenda is evangelism and life-generating churches. While fighting abortion is consistent with this primary agenda, Christians must be careful that it is not compromised by secondary agendas. Individual Christians or churches who are not "growing in grace" ought not to be concerned with fighting abortion. They have left their "first love" (Revelation 2:4).
There is a beautiful and coherent unity to God's plan for His people and the world. Within that unity is not only spiritual life, but greater physical life. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) refers not only to actual death of the body, but also to disease and disability. God's instructions promote physical life and health as well as spiritual growth.
God's ways increase the extent of life (Psalm 90:10). God's instruction in marital fidelity prevents sexually transmitted diseases (Genesis 2:24). Faith in God decreases anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34). Faith limits anger, an emotion that harms self and others (Ephesians 4:26). God commands rest, a healing attitude and behavior (Exodus 20:8-11).
God's ways increase physical life through social and government policy.(4) I recently had the honor to hear Alan Keyes speak. One of his points was that most serious problems that we face as a society and nation (welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, crime, drug abuse, homosexuality, abortion, etc.) can be prevented by responsible families.
Of course, the family must be backed up by and supported by government policy and the Church. God intended that the government punish evil with the sword (Romans 13:3-4). Now, please tell me where "evil" can be defined other than from the Bible! Also, tell me how any concept of the "sword" is consistent with our prison system and revolving-door "justice."
So, God is pro-life, but His "life" is much broader and deeper than abortion. And, this truncated view of pro-lifers has weakened and limited the fullness of God's pro-life posture. (I have written on all these on many occasions, so I only list them here.)
Pro-lifers have distorted the use of medical means in extremes of disease and disability (not limited to the terminally ill or actively dying). Pro-lifers have been terribly inconsistent on capital punishment, just wars, and self-defense. Pro-lifers have been blinded by the disease and death caused by government policy on welfare that produces generations of dependent people and by the historical fact and Biblical truth that some people just want to wallow in their misery and filth (Matthew 26:11, II Thessalonians 3:10, etc.).
Pro-lifers have advocated government theft (taxation) to pay for this welfare and for medical programs (Medicare and Medicaid) that bring little in the way of health and healing to recipients. Pro-lifers have further advocated theft from businesses engaged in free enterprise in the form of OSHA regulations and the Americans with Disability Act.
No, pro-lifers are not pro-God's fullness of life. They are narrowly anti-abortion or anti-euthanasia. That they have chosen to be "pro-life" is instructive of their limited understanding of God's plan.
Modern psychology has taught us that being "for" (pro) something is more effective that being "against" (anti). I once bought a writing analysis program. It almost choked on the negatives that it found in my writing. Being negative is just not acceptable. Oh? There are some negatives in the Bible, the most prominent of which are "Thou shalt not...."
Modern psychology has taught much more that "pro-lifers" have accepted, several practices of which are described above. Another platitude is "Hate the sin and love the sinner." Let's see. God will save the sinner from Hell and send only his sin there. Uh, I don't think so! God is no more pro-sinner than He is pro-sin.
Also, modern concepts of social policy and government (derived from humanism) are prevalent throughout the pro-life movement. As a Trojan horse, pro-lifers have invited them in, only to become overrun with their concepts.
Abraham Kuyper was a Dutch theologian whose life overlapped the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. Through his writings and influence, he eventually became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. His monumental work is Principles of Sacred Theology.(5) One of his beliefs is that the gold of Scripture is mined through conflict with paganism (humanism). For example, the issue of abortion has caused Christians to mine a bulwark of truths against this ungodly practice.
But, today, we are overwhelmed with ungodly practices. We need a comprehensive, coherent pro-life position. Abortion is only one dimension of that position.
I don't know what the best substitute for "pro-life" is. I suggest that Christians substitute "pro-Scripture." In the Old and New Testaments, "Thus saith the Lord" was proclaimed. In my attack on the resurrection of the Hippocratic Oath, I have become more convinced that we must get our battle into religious terms - our religion vs. their religion. Ethics are a matter of religious belief. They come from nowhere else. Laws are based upon someone's ethics. Thus, religions are the heart of the debate!
Christians have lost the battle when they try to be allies with non-Christians. They have given away what is ultimately both their offense and their defense -- the Bible. The Bible (God) does not speak lightly of the conflict. The "world" is anti-God (Romans 12:1). Satan is certainly anti-God and anti-Christians (Genesis 3:1-7, I Peter 5:8, etc.). Why do we seek to be allies with enemies of our faith and our God?
Mr. Wells has raised an important issue. I have clarified it further. Christians need to expand their concept of "pro-life." I don't know any other term than "pro-Scripture" that is adequate. Let's quit trying to use neutral terms and confront the humanists with their religious agenda with that of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
1. "Pro-lifers" has a derogatory sound. However, except for differences in concept, I use the term with utmost respect. It is easier to use pro-lifers than to say "those who are pro-life" repeatedly.
2. Franklin E. Payne, Biblical/Medical Ethics, Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1985, pp. 182-183.
3. I give only a brief treatise of a subject that is worthy of a lengthy section in systematic theology. The concept of "life" is central to God's message to man.
4. I have written more extensively on this subject elsewhere in "The Ethics of Life and Death," Making Biblical Decisions, Escondido, California: Hosanna House, pp. 139-154.
5. Available from Still Waters Revival Books, 4710-37A Ave., Edmonton, AB Canada T6L 3T5. Phone (403) 450-3730. Fax (403) 465-0237.
We Should Stick to Being Physicians!
Hilton P. Terrell, Ph.D., M.D.
An offbeat news magazine (equal time reading to balance biases of the mainstream media) related the tale of one John Thorpe, who wanted to build something on some property he owned, or thought he owned. The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, prevented him from building, because the upland site bordered a salt marsh in which lived the salt marsh harvest mouse. The government agency held that, when global warming melts the polar icecaps, the ocean will rise, the mouse will have to move into what is now upland, and Mr. Thorpe's house will be in the way of the mouse.
From the mainstream side, a recent opinion article in JAMA (4/26/95) expressed concern over environmental influences which are reducing the diversity of biological organisms. This concern probably extends to salt marsh harvest mice which, I am sorry to report, have not yet been assayed to see if they contain an enzyme which eats cholesterol from the endothelium of arteries. Reduced diversity, we are reasonably told, makes for increased vulnerability of humankind as well as other species. The lamentation in JAMA mentioned global warming and deforestation as processes in the "possible extinction" of some species. The present (need I add, Republican?) U.S. Congress was brought in for criticism for its stand against the Endangered Species Act which was said to be "declaring war on creation."
There are some incompatible presuppositions hiding here in JAMA. Evolutionists do not hold that the process has ended. Evolution proceeds, so the model goes, by the processes of mutation and extinction. You cannot find fossils of the inter-species links, of which there ought to be 7.814 bazillion, because it all happened in biological corners and closets, according to apologist and ad hoc specialist Stephen Jay Gould. He calls it "punctuated equilibrium." The latest ad hoc appendages to Darwinism include appeals to catastrophism that would have been anathema only a few years ago. Comets plunging into the Yucatan darkened the globe for years and extinguished the great lizards. Reduced bio-diversity for sure, there! Congress obviously was not watching.
JAMA's use of the word "creation" on the other hand, evokes the anti-evolution models of creationism. If comets, being part of the natural order, do not "war on creation" when they darken the earth, how is it that human beings, a part of the natural order, are warring on creation when we cut down trees and burn fossil fuels? Someone has smuggled in a teleology here. (If you don't know the word, look it up, or confess that you are intellectually lazy.) Evolution and extinction know no purposes. They just are. They know no values. Whatever is, is right. Creation, however, howls purpose and value.
Speaking of purposes, what are the purposes of the JAMA article? To enlist physicians in tasks for which our training and experience fit us scarcely at all -- preserving rain forests and icecaps? To have us stoke the political engines that would move Congress from its present mildly reactionary state to one which would allow more taking of property like Mr. Thorpe's? After all, mice got rights, too. We need more congressional action, like the one which empowered an agency to declare children's deciduous teeth to be toxic waste. So long, tooth fairy. Drop your tooth, child, in this biohazard container conveniently mounted on your bedroom wall, and the waste disposal contractor will leave you some money in the glove dispenser. (No, Rush did not write this article. I don't even like Rush. I can beat Rush with three-fourths of my brain tied behind by back.)
What has all this to do with family medicine? (Other specialties are not herewith excused from the following!) One of the reasons for family medicine is that, compared to other medical specialties, we are supposed to know something about a wide variety of medical matters. On only a few of those matters will we know as much as the medical specialty that focuses on that area. We are supposed to bring breadth of knowledge to the solution of medical problems. The specialists bring depth.
The risk that our specialty brethren run is in becoming too narrow. We are one of the correctives for that. There is, however, a risk that we run -- becoming too broad. We are supposed to take the family's social, educational, vocational, and attitudinal situation into account. We are supposed to be cognizant of the influences of the environment on health. We risk being drawn into social work, job counseling, environmentalism, or other areas in which our training and experience do not well qualify us. Recognition of the importance of these matters in medical problems does not constitute competence to manage them. Neither are good intentions a substitute for competence.
What do family physicians really know about global warming? Icecaps? The Homolanthus nutans tree in Samoa which native healers use to treat yellow fever, according to JAMA? Certainly physicians may be involved in environmental preservation movements, but not because of any special knowledge. A concern about losing medicinal agents hidden in disappearing plants may motivate us, but it doesn't inform us. We may service our agendas according to our personal convictions on such matters. We need to be careful of being drawn into servicing other people's agendas without knowing what we are doing. There are benefits and hazards both ways. Who really wishes to see a flowering plant disappear from earth's inventory? There are, though, likely adverse health consequences in stripping ownership rights from people such as Mr. Thorpe. Who speaks for those consequences? I wouldn't want to harm a marsh mouse, but if push comes to shove, I'll side with Mr. Thorpe against the mouse (unless his name is Mickey -- and Disney is ruining his image). Excuse me along with the Yucatan comet.
As I started to read Robert Wells' article (September 1995), I began to enjoy it -- until Mr. Wells posed the question, "Is God pro-life?" I felt a little grieved in my Spirit about that question and to be honest, the rest of the article bothered me!
Is God pro-life? Why would anyone even ask such a question! By God's will, we (man) were created! We are the clay, He is the potter! God is not "pro-life," God is Life, Eternal Life!
We are qualified to read of the Biblical accounts, such as the Flood and other situations where many people were destroyed, and ask if God is pro-life! God is God! God is just. God is all knowing.
Let me defend God on the Flood first to make my point: when the Flood came, all mankind (except Noah and his family) were destroyed! All men, women, children, and even pregnant women were destroyed. It was God's decision to do so. God is all knowing. He knew if even a baby in one of those women's wombs would, if it lived, follow His ways, or be rebellious. I believe God knew the outcome of every life on earth, even if that life was not yet born -- to God a day is a 1,000 years. God is just in all His decisions.
Just because we don't see the entire picture doesn't mean that God doesn't! Why does God allow many people in India to starve? Or does He? Cannot all the countries of the world get together and feed those people? Yes, it is our choice to allow those people to starve. God allows us to choose what we do. If you've picketed an abortion mill yet haven't sent food to starving people, are you "pro-life?" Let God be God and judge yourself! God allowed men to kill Jesus, but it was God who gave Him life!
Mr. Bero's discomfort is an indication of the unsettling nature of Mr. Wells' question and the broader and deeper nature of God's being pro-life. An example of that breadth is Mr. Bero's application to starving people. Indeed, as pro-lifers, what are we doing about starvation in the world? (I am ignoring Indians' own beliefs and responsibilities for the sake of a point here.)
Commentary: Frankly, I am surprised that there are not more errors of right and left confusion during surgery. With thousands of operations done every day and piles of sterile coverings for patient and operating staff, any perspective of right and left can almost vanish.
I am always looking for ways that patients and families can assume responsibility for themselves. The practice of "anatomically correct" labels for surgery is one more excellent one.
Of course, some might be willing to trade an arm or a leg or a kidney for a few million. Better chances than the lottery!
The Sixth Edition of the Handbook of Nursing Diagnosis (J. P. Lippincott) has gone New Age. The book contains a new section entitled "Energy Field Disturbance" or "Therapeutic Touch." Its definition is "the state in which a disruption of the flow of energy surrounding a person's being results in a disharmony of the body, mind, and/or spirit."
Commentary: Of course, these nursing "authorities" would never consider that anointing with oil by elders, prayer, evangelism, or other healing modality of Biblical Christianity might be "therapeutic." And, I doubt that a practitioner of the above is able to perceive the most severe disharmony that can exist: the unregenerate spirit in rebellion against God.
Oh well, such is the "progress" of the healing professions.
Commentary: Talk about bureaucracy run amuck! Under ADA and its nebulous "mental illnesses," businesses do not have any guidelines or recourses. They are totally at the mercy of whimsical psychiatrists and bureaucrats. In other words, the ADA cannot define what or how to handle workers with mental illness, but you (as a businessman) are certainly liable to whatever charges are filed!
Again, the worst of this scenario is that many evangelical Christians were at the forefront demanding the ADA. And, I don't think that they will be there with a helping hand for businesses that fail because of this law. They may even rejoice that "dirty businesses" (who work for the filthy profit motive) got what they deserve. I wonder how they will feel when their welfare dries up because the well is dry from overuse (i.e., excessive taxes and fines). I wonder if they will be there to assist and console workers who have lost their jobs (and their health insurance!) because of ADA lawsuits.
"Fewer doctors, especially younger ones, are willing to perform abortions, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed. Most doctors cited moral, ethical, or religious reasons for not performing abortions. The survey also asked doctors whether they would "prescribe" drug-induced abortions if they become available. Eighteen percent of doctors who don't currently perform abortions said they would be "very likely" to do so if RU-486 is approved by the FDA." (National and International Religion Report, October 2, 1995, p. 5)
Commentary: I see "good news" and "bad news" here. The good news is that fewer physicians (I prefer "physician" to "doctor") are willing to do abortions. The bad news if that (for many) it has more to do with convenience than convictions, if they will change their practice simply because of a simpler method.
Is this situation not unlike birth control pills for unmarried women? Physicians who are anti-abortion quite readily and argumentatively prescribe birth control for unmarried women -- exposing them to the severe spiritual and physical dangers of fornication and adultery simply to keep them as patients, to prevent the "possible" abortion that may occur later, or to identify with some other spurious "good" medical practice.
See the lead article herein. Being "pro-life" is having a complete, consistent code of medical ethics, not one of convenience.
Commentary: Let's see if I have this right. The FDA is supposed to protect the consumer from dangerous drugs and contaminated food. Right? They spend $13 million on a program as part of that effort -- and it doesn't work. Do you feel safer? I don't. Could our trust be misplaced? (After all, our coins have "In God We Trust." At least, at one time and in one way, the government did get it right!)
Commentary: I want to tread easily here. However, I have long had the suspicion that a major part of Alzheimer's was attitudinal and behavioral. The lives of many elderly involve social isolation, mentally dull activities (e.g., TV and menial games), and simple daily routines -- little mental stimulation there!
Accordingly, readers should remember that Alzheimer's is a catch-all term that includes many etiologies of organic brain disease, any or all of which could cause symptoms of Alzheimer's that totally destroy my thesis.
Still, I will venture a little further. The Bible says nothing about retirement, as far as the modern concept is concerned. We need to re-examine the Biblical duties of the elderly.
In Indiana, your corneas belong to the state until you state specifically otherwise. Senate Enrolled Act 389, passed in Indiana's legislature in 1993, allows coroners to remove corneas from the dead
without a donor card or the family's permission. In fact, even if you state that you don't want to be
The caveat is that you must state objection of cornea donation specifically and that the coroner is supposed to get permission from the family (but doesn't have to). (Personal letter from Ron Youngblood, October 6, 1995)
Commentary: A cornea is actually a nose -- the nose of the state camel in the tent. Many physicians and others around the country are lamenting the shortage of spare organs for donation. The small, readily extractable, and easily hidden cornea is the beginning and test legislation. Already laws are being considered that your organs are available unless you state otherwise. If they get that, organs transplant advocates won't stop there. Organ donation will become mandatory.
When Americans allowed the taxing of their property and their income (in violation of the Constitution) they gave away all their property rights, including to their own bodies. When God is not worshiped, indeed the state becomes God. It wants your bodies, alive or dead. It claims to own you. And yet -- and yet -- Christians along with everyone else clamor for more government intrusion. Dear readers, this issue of limited government is a central tenet of medical ethics. Otherwise, we will only live and die for the state.
Steve Schlissel is a converted Jew who has one of the most fascinating ministries today. Through Messiah's Congregation and Urban Nations (the true UN) in Brooklyn, New York, he interacts, preaches, teaches, and disciples people from all over the world within the "melting pot" that is New York City.
I always read his letters with anticipation because news of his ministry is mingled with excellent theology. Here, I cite his some of his remarks (September 1995) about homosexuality that reflect a major theme that I have discussed relative to the resurrection of the Hippocratic Oath by Christians.
I am in need of his prescription, as is the rest of Christendom (literally, Christ's Kingdom). I don't know when to be "generic" and when to be Scriptural. However, as the years pass, and I put my thoughts on paper, I am increasingly convinced that Christians rarely use Scripture in public debate -- to the detriment of their argument and the demise of society and law.
Do you think that the present and almost complete banishment of Christianity from public life, schools, and government is an accident? Tyrants have always gone after the Christians from First century Rome to modern times because they had the truth and were willing to die for it. As such, they were the worst enemies of totalitarians, who viewed themselves (or at least acted) as gods.
I am not sure how to bring "Thus saith the Lord" into public debate, but let us ponder the matter and look for opportunities. God has not promised to honor "conservative, generic truth," but His Word. As the young Jesus said, "Let us be about my (our) Father's business."
(You may want to learn more about or to support Steve Schlissel's ministry. His address is: 2662 East 24th St., Brooklyn, NY 11235-2610.
While this newsletter is focused on medical ethics, it is also concerned with a complete Biblical worldview. My proofreader, Carol Blair, writes a newsletter, The Issachar File, which deals with a variety of subjects. Her July/August issue reflects on her exposure to college literature currently in a master's program with her original experience in college 20 years ago!
She describes three viewpoints by which literature is reviewed today: feminism, deconstruction, and Marxism. Close behind is gay and lesbian literature -- coming soon to your college and high school.
Vol. 9, No. 6 (61) November 1995
AIDS statistics have been distorted twice in the history of the AIDS epidemic. The definition of AIDS was changed in 1987 and again in 1993. Each change brought a big increase in AIDS cases that distorted overall numbers and projections made on past definitions.
Now that the initial reporting of the change made in 1991 is past, AIDS numbers are declining again. There were 75,825 cases reported in adults for the 12 months ending June 30, 1995, compared to 79,674 for the 12 months ending December 31, 1994 -- a 4.8 percent decline. (HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Volume 5, No. 2, p. 10 and Volume 7, No. 1, p. 8)
(Ed's Note: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes a weakening of the body's immune system to the extent that the person contracts other infectious diseases and develops cancers that he would not otherwise experience. The period of time from HIV infection to these "opportunistic" diseases and cancers is usually several years and may be ten years or more. So, statistics on HIV (which are not required reporting in all states and thus incomplete) and statistics on AIDS (which are required reporting and almost complete) are kept separate. As you read, be careful to distinguish HIV statistics from AIDS statistics.
Projecting from the total of 476,899 AIDS cases reported through June 30, 1995, until the present, more than one-half million cases have been reported. Since the figure of 1 million people infected with HIV was first estimated more than 4 years ago and more than 300,000 of these have now been reported to have AIDS, the "pool" of HIV-infected people has to have been reduced to 700,000 or less. (HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 29-30)
Commentary: I have not seen recent estimates of the rate of new HIV-infection or estimates of this "pool," but I doubt that new cases are sufficient to maintain it at the previous "one million." Thus, AIDS cases will continue to decline along with the "pool" of HIV-infected people.
Reporting of HIV infection is required in only 25 states. Of the 10 states with the highest number of AIDS cases, only 1 (New Jersey) requires HIV reporting. Thus, there are only 67,211 reported cases of HIV in those 25 states, contrasting to the projected "one million."
"A 1995 study of 2,441 people with AIDS in 11 states found that the majority were tested late in their illnesses. Fifty-one percent were diagnosed with AIDS within a year of receiving a positive HIV test and 36% were diagnosed within two months of being tested. The most common reasons for seeking testing were illness (58%), being in a known risk group (13%), having an HIV-infected partner (8%), being offered the test at a clinic (6%), and having the test recommended by a physician (5%)." (American Medical News, October 16, 1995, p. 14)
Commentary: From this data, it seems that most people with HIV infection do not know that they have it. Mostly, they don't go for testing until they manifest some illness. Within a year of diagnosis, more than half (51%) would likely be reported as AIDS cases since their illness would qualify them within the expanded definition of AIDS.
We have reported earlier that the median age of death of homosexuals who have AIDS is 39 years, and for those who do not die of AIDS, it is 42 years. A more complete report of this study also reveals that the median age of death for lesbians is 44 years. They exhibit higher rates of violent death and cancer relative to women in general. (Omega Journal of Death and Dying, Volume 29 (1994), No. 3, pp. 249-272)
Commentary: "The wages of sin is death" includes physical life, as well as spiritual life. Perhaps, no other group exemplifies this relationship than homosexuals and lesbians. While heterosexual immorality is never to be condoned and has its own morbidity and mortality, the consequences for homosexuals and lesbians is much greater. This data is just more evidence that God's plan for man is comprehensively "pro-life." (See lead article, this issue.)
"The survey was conducted in student health centers at 10 large state universities and 25 randomly selected U.S. colleges in 1989 and 1990. Of 20,380 blood specimens collected during the study period, 39 tested positive for HIV, yielding a seroprevalence of 0.19 percent; this rate is similar to a CDC survey of college students conducted in 1988 and 1989. Only 11 (28 percent) of the 39 HIV-infected students were aware of their infection when their blood was taken. Seropositive persons were more likely to be male, to be 25 years of age or older, and to attend a school of at least 25,000." (HIV/AIDS Prevention, September 1995, p. 5)
Commentary: Note that specific numbers of male/females were not given here -- only "more likely to be male." In the previous study mentioned by the CDC, only two of the HIV-positive students were female. Further, the prevalence of HIV infection in the general population of the United is 0.40 percent, so the prevalence in college students is only one-half that number.
Dr. Francis Collins is a Southern Baptist and Director of the Human Genome Project, a multi-national, multi-billion dollar effort to identify every gene in the 46 chromosomes of humans. A headline in the Chicago Tribune reads "Congress told to protect privacy of Americans who get gene tests." The article began:
Do Bible-believing Christians know who God is? Dr. Collins and many others do not seem to know. Federal and state governments are in the process of thoroughly destroying American health care, and he and others want more involvement? God is the One to Whom we look for answers. If we always look to the state for answers, then the state has become our God.
Of course, Dr. Collins, Joni Eareckson Tada, the Christian Medical Society, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and a host of other evangelicals and their organizations will casually dismiss such a challenge as the delusions of fanatical fundamentalists, if they ever recognize their problem at all.
Bible-believing Christians do indeed leave their worship at the Sunday altar. They worship modern medicine, science, and government far more than they worship God's mercy and providence. Most may never recognize this idolatry while they tithe to the care of the human body and pay a double tithe (or more) to the state. Meanwhile, the average that Americans pay to the church and charities is about -- three percent.
The question arises then, "Who should be responsible for confidential tests?" The answer is simple, "The individual, his physician, and the laboratory." If I have a genetic test done, the results go to my physician, and he informs me. Three parties know the results. If that knowledge becomes known to others, then it can easily be traced to the "leaking" party. That party is then held responsible in a court of law.
That's the ideal. But, today, insurance companies and the government have access to your medical records because they have a financial interest. Your medical records are now an open book. And -- Dr. Collins et al. want the fox (government) to have even more control over the hen house (your medical records)? I think not.
Genetic technology is truly amazing. Chemical designs with a virus as a carrier can locate specific sites on chromosomes among the millions of genes that are present. Many diseases are caused by a simple defect in one of these genes. The hope has been to replace these defects with normal genetic sequences and eliminate the resultant disease.
After more than 100 trials "involving patients with a variety of disorders.... there is little or no published evidence of the clinical efficacy of gene therapy." (The New England Journal of Medicine, September 28, 1995, pp. 871-872. Also, see accompanying articles in the same issue, pp. 823-838)
Commentary: I have long suspected that gene therapy would have its problems. Why? Simply because few, if any, medical treatments are straight-forward and effective. Should we expect gene therapy to be exempt from such difficulties?
I strongly hope for better results. We could truly cure some diseases, instead of merely giving palliative treatment, which is the large majority of what physicians do.
However, these early reports are not encouraging. Perhaps, gene therapy has been overly simplistic. While the excitement has been about genes, they interact intricately with the cytoplasm (non-genetic material in cells). While genes provide the information for all the biochemicals that make up the human body, some degree of control must come from the cytoplasm. This non-genetic control may be diseased in itself and prevent the desired effect of simple gene replacement.
Further, what part does the spirit have in bodily function? While Descartes' location of the soul in the pineal gland may be false, our spirits do affect our bodies. Could a disease have a corresponding defect in the soul? I am speculating. Likely, we will never have the answers to the body-soul interface. However, we as Bible-believing Christians must challenge the notion that the body exists without the soul. For certain, that reality has implications for all medical practice, including gene therapy. We ignore this relationship to our peril, as we so often note on these pages.
Blessed be your glorious name,
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