Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jesus is my co-surgeon

The hospital that I'm working at now (St. XXXX) is affiliated with the Catholic church. I am not a big fan of mixing religion with anything, but I really think that it's unfortunate that so many church-affiliated hospitals exist. For most patients it's not a big deal and it rarely affects them. Sure, there are crosses in every room, Bible quotes in the hallways, and bright notes on the front of charts saying "Sacrament of the sick given" (apparently that's more important than "Allergic to penicillin"), but I pretty much see that as (really bad) decoration. There are some things, though, that I think are not appropriate in a place that is meant to take care of the entire community (especially since people in this half of the state really have no other choice in a major hospital).

One is that there is a rather long, loud morning prayers on the intercom every day (usually at a time when we're rounding on patients). It's not just, "let's take a moment of silence" or something else equally nonspecific... rather it is usually a five-minute sermon on what Jesus or some saint said. Even though it's a rural part of the country, not everyone is Christian or religious (and they're definitely not all catholic). The last thing I'd want to hear when I'm sick in bed (especially if it's during the five minutes that my doctor is talking to me) is what Jesus wants me to do.

What really bothers me, though, is the fact that church doctrine dictates medical decision making. Catholic-affiliated hospitals (which care for approximately 20% of the patients in the US) all follow the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives . Since it affects a fifth of patients in the country, it's a must read for healthcare workers. Some of the more striking parts are:

- #24: The institution ... will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching.
- #25: Each person may identify in advance a representative to make health care decisions as his or her surrogate in the event that the person loses the capacity to make health care decisions. Decisions by the designated surrogate should be faithful to Catholic moral principles.
- #36: A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
- #41: Homologous artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance
- #45: Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo.
- #47: Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child. (pleasantly surprised about this one)
- #48: In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.
- #52: Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning.
- #53: Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.
- #54: Genetic counseling may be provided in order to promote responsible parenthood and to prepare for the proper treatment and care of children with genetic defects, in accordance with Catholic moral teaching and the intrinsic rights and obligations of married couples regarding the transmission of life.
- #61: Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.

Painting in physicians' break room. Yeah, Jesus has helpful tips for the surgeon, but when a luxurious long hair from his uncapped head falls in the peritoneal cavity, the patient won't be too happy.


  1. This picture, is something extra-ordinary. Brilliant picturization of Allmighty's helping hand in the hour of need.

    But the ending, by the writer, shows his third rate subconcious mind, which refuses to see good and probably in the name humour trying to expose his empty non-sense.

    Any way, this painting is done by a man, who felt supreme conciousness help.

  2. Sorry, watchword. For me, "good" is someone helping others in their hour of need because of the goodness of their heart, not because they think that's what God or some other imaginary being wants them to do. This painting is meaningless, and to me, offensive, because it reduces the years of study and sacrifice that the physician made to help this person to "God did it."

  3. What an idiot yes the surgeon did do it but with Gods hand and make believe Being for your very short mind God is real you complete idiot?!??,?!??!?

    1. I'm not sure how many separate sentences that reply is suppose to be, but I understand what the painter is trying to portray. I just think it's idiotic to attribute everything good to some imaginary being, rather than your own hard work and experience. God adds nothing to it.

      As the always awesome Douglas Adams said, "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"