Biblical Reflections on Modern Medicine
Vol. 6, No. 1 (31)
- Christian, Do You Worship at the Altar of Alternative Medicine?
“In the Day That You Eat from It, You Shall Surely Die”
- Environmentally Correct Foxholes
- Another Alternative to Health Insurance
- Immunization Paper Available
- No Military Abortions – Domestic or Abroad
- Is There a Conscience in a Violent Alzheimer’s Patient?
- The Discipline of Children Is Applicable
- The Paul Hill Dialogue
- Briefs and Commentary
- India: 1948. Underpopulated?
- The After-life Will Not Be “Fun”
- Mrs. Tony Campolo Endorses Sodomy
- Human Stud Farms
- A Challenge to Those Who Prescribe Birth Control to Unmarried Women
- Talking Back to Prozac: A Book
- Further Incrimination of the Florida Dentist Whose Patients Were Infected with AIDS
- Is American Medicine a Free-Market?
- AIDS: Issues and Answers
- The Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine Is Being Re-printed and I Need Your Help!
“In the Day That You Eat from It, You Shall Surely Die”
Jesus warned us, “Be in the world, but not of the world.” Paul directed, “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” However, how many Christians will admit that the world is a problem for them?
It seems that the influence of the “world” is subtle indeed. But, then, the Prince of this world has been called an “angel of light.” And who does not want to be thought of as “en-light-ened?”
No, Jesus and Paul knew of the subtle, but powerful influence of the world. They and many other passages in the Bible warn us of that deception. However, we have great difficulty in thinking that we, as individuals, have been duped. No, it’s usually someone else who has been duped.
Modern medicine is seen by many Christians as a deception. In fact, that deception has been a major theme of my writing. Few have been as critical and written the volume of work that I have against modern medicine.
My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, has skyrocketing medical insurance costs (some pay $8000 per year) because it has worshiped virtually everything that medicine has to offer and tried to pay for it.
However, I have missed the root cause of this deception! I was talking recently on the phone with a dear friend, lamenting the growing movement of Christians to alternative medicine, which has no more to offer in health or cure than orthodox medicine (except possibly that it is safer and usually less expensive). He answered, “The problem is that too many Christians are preoccupied with health.”
The proverbial light bulb went on. Of course! The fear of disease and death is a strong part of our fallen human nature (I Corinthians 15:26, Hebrews 2:15). Few are so willing as Paul to boast in weaknesses and give up beseeching God after three requests! (II Cor.12:1-10)
Since the publishing of my first book in 1985, I have gone on public record as being open to medical means other than orthodox medicine in which I was trained (Biblical/Medical Ethics, pp. 110-111). In that same book, I severely criticized the lack of efficacy in modern medicine (pp. 33-50). Until the September 1993 issue of Reflections, I had not attacked alternative medicine. I was so close to orthodox medicine that its flaws were apparent, so I had no axes to grind with alternative medicine.
However, I began to receive an increasing number of advertisements from Christians making great claims about the efficacy of various alternative remedies. While I have not spent my time investigating them as I have orthodox medicine, many similarities exist. For example, 1) Testimonials are insufficient to establish a claim for cause and effect of a particular treatment. 2) There is a science of human physiology that must be reconciled with any treatment claim.
3) What works for one person does not always work for another. In fact, what may heal one person may maim or kill another. 4) Subjective feelings and results are difficult to make objective and measurable.
Frankly, I get angry when letters or phone calls from Christians imply that I am ignorant if I don’t know the wonderful qualities of such and such a treatment. Dear readers, I will compare my ability to analyze science with almost anyone, especially in the time and effort spent.
But, you see, those who make such claims have adopted irrational thinking already and are blind to criticism. I am willing to state that virtually any orthodox medical treatment has little to support it and may be invalid. Are you willing to make that statement about an alternative method?
If some Christians put as much time and effort into evangelism and Bible study as they do in nutrition, exercise, and alternative therapies, then the United States might not be as spiritually bankrupt as it is!
I am fascinated that interest in alternative medicine exists across all theologies from the thoroughly Reformed reconstructionists to the more moderately Reformed to the broad category of evangelicals to Pentecostals and primitive fundamentalists. They are commonly deceived whether their theology is detailed or elementary!
Again, I remain open that some of these alternatives may prove to be beneficial therapies. However, the claims of their believers are far beyond any proof of efficacy. Such therapies must be tested in some objective manner, a difficult and expensive accomplishment.
As I stated above, the basic problem is a fear of death, a prideful knowledge, and an unwillingness to grow through our sufferings. This basic problem has prompted the modern miraculous healing movement, as well. Again, the problem extends across all theologies. Some anoint with oil. Some claim the gift of healing. Some say that one only has to have “enough faith.” Some claim that Christians should never experience disease. Etc., etc.
The phone conversation with my friend tied it all together. Whether it is modern medicine, alternative medicine, or miraculous healing, the basic problem is fallen human nature — the desire to be healthy and not to suffer.
Please don’t misread me. I am strongly in favor of alleviating suffering and to heal where possible. I would encourage any and all research (medical or alternative) to increase our ability to do those things better. However, my experience in 25 years of medicine and considerable reading on the experiences of other Christians is that cause and effect in healing is close to impossible to “prove.” Most “proofs” are only suggestions. Most claims are excessive.
The bottom line that many may not want to accept is that we can really count on very little (inside or outside of modern medicine) to cure. Far and away, the best curative powers are those inherent in the body that God has created (even in its fallen state) and in a life that is obedient to God in a complete and consistent manner (that excludes obviously harmful practices that harm the body, e.g., smoking, drug abuse, and extreme obesity).
In spite of its gigantic problems, our best understanding and hope relative to the understanding of disease and healing from accidents lies with modern medicine. You know that too. Most believers in alternative approaches and even miraculous healing seek modern medicine when they get that squeezing chest pain of a heart attack, are maimed in a car accident, find blood or pus coming from bodily orifice, and discover other severe bodily malfunctions.
Don’t worship at the altar of modern medicine, alternative medicine, or miraculous healing. Worship instead at the altar of the Triune and Sovereign God. He may choose to work through one of the above or He may not. Hope and joy rest in Him and Him alone.
Learn some humility about the difficulty of “proving” that any treatment is beneficial. False claims are lies. Lying is a sin. We may research, advertise, argue, or explore what we believe is beneficial to health and healing. However, when we make excessive claims, we are lying. “Bodily discipline (including health/medical claims) is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it hold promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (I Timothy 4:8).
In case you have been worried about the military readiness of the United States relative to recent news of under-funding, let me assure you that there is — more to worry about. Fort Gordon is a large Army post in Augusta where I live. It is the primary training headquarters for the Military Police of the U.S. Army. An article on the front page of The Signal (its post newspaper) recently caught my eye.
“‘Where a unit digs its fighting positions is (environmentally) important. If a commander wants to dig on the side of a hill, we have to determine if that is really necessary,’ said Stephen Willard, Chief of the Environmental Division.” (Note that he holds no military rank.)
Thus, our fighting forces have to be environmentally correct before considering military strategy. I suspect that this example is only the tip of the iceberg of “politically correct” impositions on the military. What military might the left has not stripped by severe cuts in spending, they have compromised by political correctness. Let us hope and pray that we don’t have a real war any time soon.
(Note: I hope readers will forgive momentary departures from medical ethics such as this one. Some tidbits are just too juicy not to pass along!)
Asking the New Congress to be Pro-life
Dear Dr. Payne,
Thanks for the good work. I would like to share some thoughts about stopping abortion. With all the pro-life legislators, it could be done this session. Here’s how.
1. Encourage everyone to write their Congressman and Senator and insist that they put a bill in the hopper on the first day of the 104th U.S. Congress. The bill would read essentially as follows:
A. Human life begins at conception and shall be afforded all the protection of a person under the U.S. Constitution.
B. The Supreme Court is excluded from jurisdiction.
2. Encourage each legislator to send a letter to his colleagues to sign as sponsors of the bill.
This bill would require only a 51% vote. If your “pro-life” legislator won’t do it, he really isn’t serious about stopping abortion. Publish the replies you receive. Expose the “talkers.” If they say it wouldn’t pass, who knows? We must be faithful, not “successful.” And each one who refuses to do this, after being informed, will himself be accountable for the death of each unborn child from on.
They must do what they can or be held responsible. By introducing such a bill, one absolves oneself from responsibility, whether “successful” or not. And if we don’t do what we can, i.e., write the letters, we bear responsibility for the death of the unborn. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. I encourage you to enter the battle at this level. May God grant us success, if it please Him, but at least may we be faithful.
Yours by Sovereign Grace,
Lucius B. “Cap” Poser
Major, USAF (Ret.)
I don’t know if Mr. Poser’s bill has the best wording or content. For example, I am not sure that the Supreme Court can be excluded from jurisdiction. If it can, are U.S. Districts courts any better? Also, the first day of the 104th Congress has come and gone. However, any day would be a good day to press the issue!
However, his letter does show how simple it could be for the Congress to prove itself pro-life, even if it failed to pass such legislation. There is no question that they need to have their feet held to the fire on this issue!
I have previously reported on the Brotherhood Newsletter, through which subscribers pay each other’s medical bills. The cost is much less than most insurance programs.
Samaritan Ministries International and its associated program, the Christian Health Care Network, are similar ministries. Now, founder Ted Pittenger has gone one step further with a plan (Samaritan Associate Ministry) to cover pre-existing conditions through the charity of their subscribers and other contributors. By this mention, I am not endorsing their methods because I know too little at this point. However, it seems worth investigating by those readers who may be interested in medical coverage or helping with the medical needs of other Christians.
For information, write: Samaritan Ministries International, P. O. Box 413, Washington, IL 61571-0413 or call (309) 698-8765.
After receiving numerous requests about immunizing children, I have written a paper that covers both general principles of health and specific immunizations.
I recommend most immunizations and don’t recommend others. However, I address several issues that many enthusiasts may not have considered. For example, if certain vaccines are unavailable in the future, those not immunized could be at risk of exposure during an epidemic of that disease. Also, immunization as one part of the whole concept of health is a relatively minor issue. It is not the major concern that enthusiasts have made it.
My paper is available to readers for the $2.00 cost of printing and mailing. Although the copy that you receive may be passed around, I do not want any copies made of the original. I welcome your feedback as some conclusions are not entirely settled in my own mind.
“It is now one and a half years since Clinton ordered military physicians to start doing abortions. Every single military doctor has relied on conscience causes. To date, there has not been a baby killed by an elective abortion in any military hospital, domestic or abroad….” (Life Issues Connector, November 1994, p. 7)
Commentary: With the rapid turnover in military physicians and the pressure on the military to provide abortions, this wonderful fact may change. However, “G.I.’s for Truth,” a pro-life group of military physicians is fighting to keep their record intact.
I received a brief note from a reader with these questions. 1) “Is there a conscience in a violent Alzheimer’s patient?” 2) “Is there such a thing as an inactive and an active conscience?”
These are excellent questions! Rather than write her individually, I will answer them in the hope that I can dialog with you readers. I will assume the second question in the context of the first. Apart from organic disease of the brain, a conscience is “active” or “inactive” according to the exercise of one’s will. What more can be said about it?
However, the conscience of an Alzheimer’s patient is more difficult. I am going to include all actions of Alzheimer’s patients, not just violent acts. The question of conscience is applicable to all wrong behaviors of Alzheimer’s patients. Also, I will assume that Alzheimer’s is a (more or less) correct diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific diagnosis that has become a “catch-all” term for many degenerative brain conditions.
The question might be better stated, “Does an Alzheimer’s patient know what he is doing?” If he has no consciousness of his actions because of his disease, then his conscience is not “active” and he should not be held accountable for his actions.
However, neither situations in life nor in medicine are at the black and white extremes. It seems certain that Alzheimer’s patients’ clarity of thought waxes and wanes with their disease state. Their thinking may be crystal clear for a while and later seem to lose virtually all touch with reality. So, how is one to relate to Alzheimer’s patients?
To some extent, the discipline of children is applicable. Children are learning reality, and right behavior has to be enforced. However, the process in Alzheimer’s patients is to retain right behavior as long as possible, while expecting a downhill course. With children, we expect right behavior to increase over time.
As with children, we ought to err toward their understanding more than might be apparent. Children understand far more than they are able to articulate and may be held accountable beyond their verbal ability to explain. Alzheimer patients should also. Many understand, at least some of the time, what they are doing. As with children, they will use lax attention and discipline sometimes as an opportunity for wrong behavior.
Our deep caring may get in the way of what is best for the Alzheimer’s patient and his family. Allowing unrestricted behavior may actually cause further deterioration, because the patient’s boundaries are further eroded and his orientation to reality becomes more vague. One reviewer writes, “Any decision as to the rightness or wrongness of conduct in a person declining into dementia should ideally be made by the family. The family can overlook some things in love. They can adjust expectations downward gradually. Wrong acts which could also be criminal, e.g., assault, if judged by the civil ruler, will be in a more rigid court in which love and forbearance may have less, if any sway.”
There is no doubt that the management of Alzheimer’s patients is more difficult than the management of children. Children’s habits are forming and their independence is limited. Alzheimer’s patients have deeply ingrained habits and decades of relative independence. Often, the children are those who care for their Alzheimer’s parents, and parents don’t want to be disciplined by their children.
“Is there a conscience in an Alzheimer’s patient?” Yes, there is. However, it may fade in and out. Management requires close observation and attention to repetitive patterns. One ought to err on the side of greater understanding by the patient than of less. Such patients ought to be gently, but firmly, fenced in by expected behavior.
Deterioration will occur. These patients may become impossible to manage by behavioral methods alone. However, they ought be held responsible for as long as is conceivably and physically possible by those who care for them.
I would like to hear from you on this subject. Perhaps, some physician readers have had considerable experience with Alzheimer patients. Perhaps, some family members have experimented with different approaches that have been successful. Write and let me know.
I have received a few more letters relative to the killings of an abortionist and his escort by Paul Hill. I have chosen, however, to leave the discussion as it appeared in the November 1994 Reflections. My purpose was to present both sides of the argument and to stimulate readers to think beyond their initial response. If there is an issue to which any letter-writer would like a personal response from me, please write.
Since November, more killings have taken place, at an abortion clinic in Massachusetts. However, it is clear that those killings were not predicated upon the careful thought (whether right or wrong) of Paul Hill. The more recent killings seem to be an irrational response directed at no one in particular. No one thinking rightly could begin to justify those killings.
“In 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, ‘I think India is an underpopulated country.’ He stated that some areas are indeed heavily populated, but ‘many parts are not populated at all.’ (T.G. Barnes, J.D. Feldman, editors: Breakdown and Rebirth, 1914 to the Present, A Documentary History, vol. II, p. 201.) That perspective runs counter to current thinking, and so we hear little about it.” (Chalcedon Report, November 1994, p. 44)
The following is the first sentence of the obituary of a man who died of AIDS (acknowledged repeatedly by the paper).
“On Sunday, Brad, 38, went to start his new life, one that will be filled with fun.” (The Dallas Morning News, December 7, 1994, p. 30A)
Commentary: While homosexuals and others may shake their fists in God’s face during their earthly lives, their lives in eternity will not be “fun” if they persist to the end in this defiance. The “gay” life is not “gay” either physically or spiritually, but it is “fun” compared to eternity without God.
“‘It had long been my prayer that a way would open for gay and lesbian couples to publicly pledge their lives to each other in both the church and the world.’ (Thus, Mrs. Campolo) described the wedding of two homosexual friends.” (Baptist Bulletin, December 1994, p. 33, reprinted from Dialogue of the Brethren/Mennonite Council for Lesbian and Gay Concerns) Note: The article wrote the ame as “Compolo.” Campolo is the correct spelling, as the identity of the person interviewed is certain.
Commentary: I am not easily shocked. I often expect the worst of people. However, I am shocked at this account, at evangelical leaders groveling before Bill Clinton (Reflections, July 1994), at C. Everett Koop’s support of the Clintons’ agenda and homosexuality, and at some books recently published by evangelical book houses.
The last verse of Romans 1 is descriptive, “Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (NASB). Without public disavowal, one can only assume that Dr. Tony Campolo (her husband) also agrees with her!
One of the great disappointments of my Christian life has been such idiocy in Christians (some of whom I once held in great esteem) over issues that seem crystal clear to me. Another disappointment is the failure of spiritual growth in (what seems to be) the large majority of Christians. But, then, I look at myself and at the Bible, and I see the blindness of heart and the depth of evil therein. We can only look up with the Publican and plead, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Samuel Blumenfeld comments on the sperm bank located on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The whole operation smacks of a stud farm. Some of these students may father ten children or more who may want to know some day who their father is. They may want to know who their aunts and uncles are, who their paternal grandparents are. They may want to claim inheritances. And if their fathers got married, they may want to know who their half brothers and sisters are. Can these student sperm donors claim no responsibility for their offspring? When human beings take it upon themselves to upset God’s natural order, disorder will result.” (The Blumenfeld Education Letter, October 1994, p. 8. Address is P. O. Box 45161, Boise, ID 83711.)
Commentary: Dr. Blumenfeld has offered another strong argument against artificial insemination by donor (AID). I have argued Biblically against AID elsewhere, but Dr. Blumenfeld has graphically described the violation of God’s designed (preferable to “natural”) order.
Some who read this newsletter (and many beyond it) believe that God blesses the prescription of birth control to unmarried women, primarily because such prescriptions may prevent their aborting later pregnancies. (They usually don’t say that “God blesses” their actions, but to say that what they do is right is to ask God to bless it. “Rightness” and “God’s blessing” are inseparably related in a consistent Biblical ethic.)
To those believers, I ask, “Is it right to give sterile needles to drug addicts to prevent HIV/AIDS?” To be consistent, they must answer, “Yes.” However, I suspect that a few will balk at this extension of their logic. They will either wiggle around the dilemma irrationally or they might just reconsider their position on birth control!
Americans’ (and presumably many Christians) love affair with Prozac, a relatively new anti-depressant, needs a serious challenge. That book is now available. I have not read it, but it seems to be a counter-argument to all the “wonderful” claims of Prozac.
Talking Back to Prozac by Peter R. Breggin, M.D., published by St. Martin’s Press, 273 pages, $19.95. Any book store should be able to order it for you.
“The Florida dentist suspected of transmitting the AIDS virus to six patients shared many traits with known serial killers and may have committed “sexual homicide,” according to research reported in the journal, AIDS Patient Care. Dr. Leonard Horowitz compared the personality of the dentist, Dr. David Acer, who died of AIDS in 1990, with those of 36 sex-serial killers studied by the FBI, and found similar profiles.
“Those traits and behaviors included social isolation, lack of demonstrated emotion, chronic lying, anger, alcoholism, pedophilia, physical fetishes, and a dependent and extremely protective relationship Acer had with his widowed mother, Horowitz said.” (Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1994, p. 1)
Commentary: While “traits and behaviors” are not absolute cause and effect, such descriptions are consistent with a dead conscience which removes any moral restraint. I wonder, however, how many of those characteristics apply to homosexuals in general, who are deeply involved in that deviant lifestyle. Dr. Paul Cameron has documented that 44 percent of “sexually-tinged mass murderers in the United States from 1966-1983” were bisexuals or homosexuals, while they comprise 1-3% of the population (The Gay Nineties, Adroit Press, Franklin, Tennessee, 1993, p. 46)
Some argue that the free market is the problem rather than the solution for the high cost of medical care . Readers of this newsletter are not as likely as others to be confused over this point. (I hope!) However, you may want some brief specifics.
1) Orthodox medicine has a monopoly on medical practitioners through state licensure. If you don’t believe me, just hang out a shingle to practice medicine or nursing without a state license and see how long you last. State licensure strictly limits who practices the medical arts.
2) State insurance laws are costly. State regulations strictly limit what medical policies can offer, who may offer them, and what may be covered. This area is partially an extension of licensure. Only licensed practitioners are eligible for compensation. Also, there are risk pools that are assigned to insurance companies. That is, they have to take certain people who are high-risk for large expenses and who are otherwise uninsurable. Their costs must be borne by the other policy holders.
3) The Food and Drug Administration (federal) strictly limits both the available drugs and what they may claim to do. The time to get approval for a drug and the research necessary to “prove” its efficacy makes a drug or device’s eventual cost to be considerable.
4) Federal money is granted for research of medical treatments. While virtually everyone is for research to develop the “latest and best” treatments, this money has allowed a rapid growth of technology. Once developed, no hospital or physician would dare not be without this “latest and best,” so it is added at great cost to the patient through his pocket, insurance, or government payer. These items rarely improve patients’ quality of care or cure rate.
5) Federal and state programs have been created with few limitations on the medical services made available to recipients. The largest programs are Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid is now the largest item in some state budgets. This tremendous amount of money further inflates the system in terms of resources needed and a demand that drive prices up.
6) State and federal regulations on hospitals are expensive. Under federal mandate, emergency rooms cannot turn away any person who presents for treatment. Hospitals have to meet special policies, equipment, and procedures under the Occupational and Safety Act (OSHA) and other federal, state, and local regulations.
There are others, but these should be sufficient to close the case that American medicine is light years away from a free market. These costs inflate medical care costs several-fold over what they would otherwise be. The bottom line is that the more government at any level is involved in (i.e., controls), the more that it will cost and the poorer the quality of services that will be provided. The only “health-care bill” that ought to be acceptable to the Americans is one that has the government getting out of medicine.
Vol. 9, No. 1 (56) January 1995
“Should Expectant Mothers Be Tested for HIV?” This question was asked in Christianity Today(December 12, 1994, p. 68). The question arose because of a report in The New England Journal of Medicine (November 3, 1994, pp. 1181-1187) that giving zidovudine (AZT) to pregnant women with the AIDS virus (HIV) reduced by two-thirds the transmission of that infection to their babies.
The question was asked of two secular ethicists (Drs. Arthur Caplan and Ruth Macklin), the president of Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy (Dr. Shepherd Smith), a theologian (Dr. Harold O. J. Brown), a policy analyst of the National Association of Evangelicals, the director of Care Center Services for Care Net (Richard Cizik), and other “leading spokesmen” (Ed’s term) of various groups.
While some valid points about testing per se were raised, no one suggested that the study ought to be studied for its reliability and applicability! If the study is seriously flawed, the question asked becomes moot!
In medical school, we took a short course based upon the book How to Lie with Statistics. As residents, we occasionally had discussions with a statistician who would dissect medical research articles. When he finished, we often wondered how we could practice medicine at all will such flaws in all medical studies. Everyone should first be a skeptic about any new medical finding, especially when great fanfare surrounds its announcement to the world!
You, reader, can do this yourself. How many times on the evening news have you seen an exciting new treatment for cancer? Perhaps, you have heard such “breakthroughs” once a week. But, even if they were only monthly, don’t you think we would be well on our way to winning the war on cancer, if such reports were truly valid?
Another reason to be skeptical was stated by an editor in the same issue of the Journal in which that research appeared. Dr. Ronald Bayer described a “bleak clinical picture that has surrounded AIDS, especially since the report that the early use of AZT in HIV infection (in men and non-pregnant women) had no apparent effect on clinical outcome.” In other words, the most heralded cure (AZT) for HIV/AIDS had been shown to have little or no benefit. The AIDS gurus needed a dramatic study to bolster their demand that HIV/AIDS patients be given special treatment in the medical world.
Christians worship at the altar of medical science. I have repeatedly said that the greatest stumbling block for Christians to assess properly the role and cost of modern medicine is its lack of effectiveness. If something does not reliably work, why debate whether it should be made available at all? (Christians also worship at the altar of alternative medicine! See front
First, let’s look at the numbers. The study reported a 67.5% reduction in transmission of HIV. There were 199 babies tested for HIV after one year of age. Of those who acquired HIV from their mothers and tested positive for HIV after birth, 7 (7.3%) were in the AZT-treated group (total of 95) and 20 (19.2%) in the placebo group (total of 104). Note that 84 babies (80.8%) of the babies in the placebo group were not infected! AZT was not needed for these babies, as natural and unknown factors prevented HIV transmission from their mothers.
Thus, the reality is that AZT prevented transmission of HIV in 11.9% of babies treated. That is, 1/8 benefited from the AZT while 7/8 did not! So, 7 of 8 receive a highly toxic drug to prevent transmission in 1 of 8. So, the question is whether it is ethical to treat 7 of 8 babies to affect 1 in 8? If the merits of this study are proven over time (a big if — see below), then that is a question for parents, not physicians.
Second, there are major flaws in the study that are glossed over. There were 8 fetal or neonatal deaths, 5 in the AZT group and 2 in the placebo group. However, the conclusion of the study is that “None of these deaths were attributable to the study drugs.” Oh, yeah? I don’t think that these deaths can be so easily discounted.
Third, the study began with 477 pregnant women with 409 giving birth to 415 live infants with 363 infants actually tested for HIV-status sometime after birth. Only 199 were tested beyond one year of age. So, the numbers for various reasons were reduced from 477+ babies (allowing for twins, etc.) to 199 tested at the end of the study. Since only 27 babies actually tested positive after one year from the starting number of 477+, the positives are a only a small fraction of the whole. Such a small fraction is easily susceptible to falsely skewed numbers.
I have only scratched the surface on the possible flaws in this study, but space limits further analysis. Perhaps, however, you can begin to see that this study has problems inherent in the study itself.
From the beginning of AZT treatment results in adult AIDS patients, I was skeptical of its efficacy. Over several years, the “experts” proved my position. This study of transmission of HIV from mothers to infants has more significant numbers than those earlier studies. However, I am not convinced that the accuracy of this study will stand.
Perhaps, some efficacy will eventually be demonstrated, but when treatments are applied in everyday clinical situations, the tightly controlled parameters of a research study are lost and the likelihood of the same results found in the original study are nil.
The question that should be asked is, “Should thousands of unborn babies be subjected to a toxic drug on the basis of one study which almost seems designed to show its intended results?” That answer is not clear.
Drs. Hilton Terrell, Andy White, and myself began the Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicineeight years ago. Soon, the 32nd issue of that Journal will be published, completing the 1994 edition. As this major accomplishment occurs, I make two observations.
1. No known publication in history or in modern times has been as substantive and as comprehensive on medical-ethical issues.
2. The depth and breadth of both authors and subject matter greatly exceeded the expectations of the 3 founders.
I plan to devote most of my efforts in 1995 to the printing of bound volumes of the Journal and their dissemination as widely as possible. The Journal will be printed in two volumes (years 1987-1990 and years 1991-1994). The first volume is estimated at 352 pages! The second will be a few pages less. Both will contain a comprehensive Subject Index and a Reference of Bible Texts cited. This design will allow them to be used easily as reference texts.
My hope is to get these bound volumes into as many conservative Bible schools and seminariesas possible. Also, I hope to get them into all medical schools.
I hope to go to press in late February with the first volume. The printing process will take about 6 weeks. I will immediately begin the second volume and hope to print it by August 1995 or possibly earlier.
I can do the work. I am not sure that I can fund the project and the marketing that will come after publication. There are two ways that you can help.
1) Contribute to the medical school project. Since medical schools are not likely to purchase “religious” books, I plan to offer these bound volumes of the Journal at no cost if they will simply place them on their shelves.
I estimate that this medical school part of the project alone will cost $4,000 (volumes and shipping costs only, no labor costs), if accepted by all medical schools. Perhaps, there is one reader who would fund this entire project or several who would contribute significantly to it. What a legacy from you to future medical students to have the Word of God applied to their profession! Think and pray about your part.
Also, if you know a student or faculty at a particular school who can help locally and with follow-up, please send me his or her name. Submissions at the local level are rarely refused by librarians.
Covenant Enterprises is legally a “for-profit” (although no real profit has ever been made!) sole proprietorship. Thus, contributions are not tax deductible.
2) A special Sponsor’s Edition will be printed. Being a “sponsor” means that you helped sponsor the publishing of these volumes. A maximum of 100 copies of each volume will be printed with specially designed covers and the name of the sponsor printed on the front. These will sell for $99.00 for years 1987-1990 and $99.00 for years 1991-1994. Regular editions are projected to sell for $39. See the enclosed insert for more details.
Printers require one-half of the total cost up-front and the other half before delivery. So, please consider whether you can contribute or buy a Sponsor’s Edition as soon as possible. See the enclosed flyer for more details.