Application of Christian Principles to Solve Bioethical Issues identified in the “Healing and Autonomy” Case Study


Although human beings have mistakenly continued to separate religion and medicine, they should be aware of other important factors that matter, which demand for better approaches to deal with ethical issues in medicine. A case study on “Healing and Autonomy” has been considered in this paper to illustrate how the four principles- respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice can be applied to limit religious decisions in medicine.

Analyzing the Case Study: “Healing and Autonomy”

Identifying the sorts of issues that are most pressing in the case study under the Christian narrative and Christian vision

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Jackson, Hansen & Cook-Ly (2013) inform that in medicine, the existence of conflicting values between patients and clinicians, are no longer ignored in medicine and the best way forward is to find out how the conflicts can be managed ethically to achieve quality patient care. Values in this context, Jackson, et al. (2013) define them as those commitments that individuals base their interests and attitudes. In other words, values are the beliefs that cause people to prefer certain actions. Therefore, values define what conducts are good that should be practiced and which ones are bad that should not be practiced. On this basis, the issues that are most pressing in the case study from the Christian perspective are that James’s parents have found it best to use their faith in God to heal their son James rather than following the advice given by James’s physician. When things failed to go as expected and James’ condition worsened, Mike’s faith in God is again put into test when he is asked to allow Samuel to donate his kidney to his brother James. Jawaid (2014) constructs that illnesses are life stressors and when ill, people tend to seek reasons for their sufferings and solutions to end them. Medical and religious systems are those that are often consulted either in a complimentary or supplementary manner. On religious grounds, many people believe that prayers are able to heal a person or can facilitate healing. More so, putting more interests and attitudes on religious interventions brings greater satisfaction to a spiritual person than considering medical interventions would. However, Jawaid (2014) asserts that religious interventions alone are not sufficient to help people heal. In fact, when the interventions fail, they increase sufferings in patients and their families develop spiritual struggles. In this regard, Mike has reached a point where he is struggling spiritually when he is striving to help James to be healed. Mike has also failed to consider the interests of James while seeking to satisfy his own religious interests. 

Determining if the physician should allow Mike to continue making decisions that seem to him to be irrational and harmful to James

McCormick (2014) argues that it is unethical for healthcare givers to impose their values on patients when they are at a point at which they desperately need healthcare. Religious values are important to be considered in healthcare because; they are those that are more powerful in relieving patients and their families from their sufferings caused by illnesses. Hence, in holistic care, spiritual and clinical values that are positively related are necessary even to achieve patient satisfaction (Singh & Ajinkya, 2012). Nevertheless, physicians need to advice patients/family members such as Mike to consider religious interventions as those that complement medical interventions. In addition, physicians need to advice their clients to seek guidance from a clinical-religious person to become more educated how religion and medicine interact. By doing that, it would help them avoid the spiritual struggles they are likely to be exposed to and they would do what is safer for their patients (Singh & Ajinkya, 2012). 

In the study on how medical and religious values conflict, Committee on Bioethics (2013) establishes that when it comes to handling children’s healthcare, parents have limited authority to make decisions related to pediatric care. Parents can only make such decisions when handling their own healthcare only and that liberty is limited when their decisions are posed to cause harm to their children. Children are not old enough to make their own decisions and parents in this case are only allowed to make decisions that are only for the best interests of their children. In light of this, physicians are obligated to guide parents to choose healthcare interventions that promote the health of their children. Choosing to ignore the recommended children’s healthcare is legally interpreted as medical care neglect. In this regard, pediatricians are required to direct parents to agencies that protect children’s rights. In addition, pediatricians are obligated to administer the required treatment during emergencies for the purposes of preventing further sufferings on children in need of care and make a report to the agencies. Thus, in the case study, James’s physician should not allow Mike to continue making decisions that are causing more harm to James. In fact, the physician should have immediately provided the required treatment to protect James’s health and report the matter to the child protection agencies.

How the case study can be analyzed

From the Christian perspective, Mike can be said to be a Christian that perceives that religious interventions are not compatible with medical interventions. Hence, he needs to make a choice as to which alternative is best and following his Christian faith, Mike that refuses any medical intervention in favor of a religious intervention. James suffered a treatable health problem but his father’s religious decisions have worsened James’s condition to an irreversible state. By doing that, Mike has failed to balance religious values and other values that are necessary to protect James from increased sufferings and that action has ultimately exposed Samuel to a new health problem. Following Mike’s acts, the case study can be said to illustrate an example of a Christian family that understands any illness as something that comes in between the human nature and the human body because of sins committed in the past. Thus, to such families, illness is a stigmatizing issue that those afflicted are supposed to suffer from other than get quick medical treatment. Many religions do not consider medical interventions to deal with illnesses rather, prayers are commonly used and reading the Bible (Weiner, et al., 2012). Based on this finding, Mike can be said to be a parent that needs to be informed about other societal values that exists for the best interest of children. The physician was one that should have considered the patient’s interests by educating Mike about the child’s right to medical treatment regardless of his religious beliefs. Thus, the case can be considered as an example of a medical neglect caused by a pediatrician. 

How Christians ought to think about sickness and health and what they should do about illnesses

Christians need to understand that all human beings are imperfect creatures living in a world where all forms of life need to balance. That is, there is birth then death, there are bacteria and viruses, and there are human beings and plants, among others. Thus, sickness here on earth is a natural process that is not associated with sins and neither is it there to test people’s faith in God. The place where sicknesses and other life sufferings will seize to affect humankind is in heaven and that place is yet to become a reality. God has created human beings with some abilities to fight sicknesses. The human body has its own healing process, there is the immune system that fights back viruses, the human brain has the capacity to learn and discover how medicinal processes can be used to boost the immune system and the healing process to restore good health. Therefore, Christians need to be thankful to God for the abilities humans have and maximize on them to be healthy. That is in addition to prayers that facilitate the healing process (Christianity, 2018).  Tangelder (2007) develops the discussion further by reminding Christians that all human beings are created in the image of God even after Adam and Eve sinned. More so, a human being is a unity of body and soul where the body is described as the temple of worshiping the Holy Spirit. Thus, according to how Christians understand the human body, it was them that were first to establish hospitals as charitable organizations that took care of the sick. The organizations were created to include houses for health workers and physicians, schools, and shelter for the poor persons and travelers (Tangelder, 2007). Hence, all Christians of today should embrace medical science as a Christian tradition that helps in alleviating sufferings brought about by sicknesses as much as possible. Therefore, Mike as a Christian should thank God for the developments that have been made to be able to treat the problem James has and pray for more improvements in the health industry in treating such conditions in a better way.


Application of the four principles in solving the ethical issues identified in the case study is as follows. The physician needed to respect the government that protects the rights of children and by doing that he would have applied the respect for autonomy and justice principles. By considering medical interventions, Mike would have employed the nonmaleficence principle. With the right understanding of how religion and medicine are part of the Christian tradition, the beneficence principle would have been appropriately employed by Mike to solve the biomedical ethical issue.  


Christianity (2018). Illness. Retrieved

Committee on Bioethics (2013). Conflicts between religious or spiritual beliefs and pediatric care: Informed refusal exemptions, and public funding. Pediatrics, 132(5). Retrieved

Jackson, A. P., Hansen, J. & Cook-Ly, J. M. (2013). Value conflicts in psychotherapy. Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy, 35(1). Retrieved<>.

Jawaid, H. (2014). Impact of religion/spirituality on health: What are the evidences? Journal of Psychiatry, 17(164). Doi:10.4172/Psychiatry.1000164.

McCormick, T. R. (2014). Ethics in Medicine: Spirituality and medicine. Retrieved<>.

Singh, D. K. & Ajinkya, S. (2012). Spirituality and religion in modern medicine. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(4), 399-402. Doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.108234.

Tangelder, J. D. (2007). Reformed reflections: A Christian perspective on healthcare. Retrievedca/faith-and-life/chr-perspective-healthcare.html”>

Weiner, L., et al. (2012). Cultural and religious considerations in pediatric palliative care. Palliative Support Care, 11(1), 47-67. Doi: 10.1017/S1478951511001027Zaidi, D. (2018). Influences of religion and spirituality in medicine. AMA Journal of Ethics, 20(7), 609-612.

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