Tough Coda between Religious Ethics and Medical Decisions

I have been a vegetarian my entire life, and that is a culture most Hindus believe-in since generations. Though there isn’t any religious book that dictates such practice. No one knows correctly from where this practice came into existence. Some scholars believe it came from Buddha’s teachings, who was against violence towards animals for human survival. What bothers me is that, when I was doing my MD in Ayurveda at Rajiv Gandhi Government Post Graduate Ayurvedic College and Hospital Paprola, Himachal Pradesh, there were monasteries where Buddhist monks ate meat. I am not saying, I missed something very vital in my life or I am unhappy being a vegetarian. Instead I feel pride that I have survived without meat and have intellectual abilities similar to others who are meat-eaters. Its commonly said that, ‘the type of food you eat has a huge impact on one’s mind’ but I have met some of the generous and kindest people who were carnivores. I am gonna set this argument aside for now! Here is a situation, if I ever land into an extremely critical situation, and the only option left for my survival is to have meat. Honestly, it will be a difficult choice to accept.

12_Medical EthicsJehovah Witness, this sect started out in Pennsylvania in 1870 as a Bible class led by Charles Taze Russell. Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called “The Millennial Dawn,” which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. One of their beliefs prohibits acceptance of blood transfusion or organ transplant even in critical medical conditions. Such acute emergency practices conflicts with God’s word according to Watchtower doctrine which prohibits to replace own organs with other humans. It seems very hard to believe in 21st century and how can a family let their family die or delay their health improvement. These are all harsh realities maybe a vegetarian belief or Jehovah Witness belief and we all submit to them though painfully during critical care!

Hippocratic oathSo how, such social ethics affect the medical providers when they are taught in school to save life with their best judgement, but get weakened because of individual and family faith. It becomes very critical for healthcare providers to respect the cultural practices of the patient while meeting legal and professional obligations. Physician can explain to the patient and their family about the need and obtain consent. Its better to ensure that refusal is informed and voluntary. This basically helps physicians not to live-in guilt and this situation seems like the same which happens when a soldier returns home after being in a war-torn country and can’t live normal because of guilt and stress they carry of losing friends and suffer from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

There are some scientific logics to such conclusions-such decisions require broader discussion on- societal good vs individual good. The social good encourages blood donation to save life, but individual good dictate psychologic benefit with refusal. The psychologic benefit may out-weigh to society. Another ethical public concern of blood transfusion is fear of risks from anonymous donar, which is can be true or may not be, in spite of vigilant screening. And researchers also highlights on Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) and transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO), as these are number one and two leading causes of blood transfusion-related deaths in the United States. Lastly, if the newer generations don’t follow the traditions and wanted to change, they will be considered rebellious opposers and unfaithful.

The bottom line is to respect patient’s autonomy and preferences toward their bodies!

Photo Credit: Ethical dilemma, Hippocratic Oath

Writing on ‘Tough Coda between Religious faith and Medical Decisions’ is in continuation of my reflection to contribute to Vibrant Healthy Communities. Have you ever come across such ethical situations! 


Author: VandanaSandhir

Developing Vibrant Communities

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