Medical Care vs. Medical Cure
Certain medical-ethical issues are more complex because of
confusion over what the real issues are. One example is
medical “cure” vs. medical “care.” Christians are
especially prone to make this mistake because our God
clearly commands us to care and provide for the poor, the
widow, the orphan, the homeless, the fatherless, and others
My contention, however, is that caring for people with
medical problems cannot be carried out to the full extent of
God's mandate without necessarily providing “medical”
care. Before developing this distinction, I will start with
an observation and a conclusion from that observation.
It has been observed and documented on numerous occasions
what happens when DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders are
written in the hospital. Medical and nursing staff and
families begin to treat the patient as though he had a
contagious disease. There is less interaction with the
patient, and nurses have even been known not to answer the
patient's call button.
My conclusion to this observation is two-fold. First,
avoidance of the patient reflects a general denial of and
unwillingness to acknowledge death in our society. I will
not, however, explore this attitude, as it is not my primary
focus here and likely contributes little to these observed
changes with patients.
Second, medical care and care of basic needs (one expression
of love) have become virtually one and the same. That is,
medical care has come to be seen as a basic need, even a
"right." That inclusion, however, is severely erroneous.
Basic needs are clearly efficacious to health and life,
whereas what is done medically is often equivocal relative
to health and life (sometimes, even detrimental).
You see, the only change in the status of the patient when
he becomes DNR is that "all that can be done" will not be
done, medically speaking. Nothing else has changed. He is
(at that moment) no closer to death, his disease status has
not changed, and he is the same person. On this basis, can
there be any other conclusion than that the person for whom
medical care has been stopped has also lost the care and
support due a person in his position. In other words, the
person who no longer needs medical care is already dead!
Now, most people would not go so far as to say that, but I
reply that "actions speak louder than words."
If medical care were always efficacious, then it might
qualify as a basic need. However, it is easily demonstrable
that medical care is far less than efficacious in most
areas. The greater problem in our society seems to be that
we now expect institutions to provide what was
formerly provided within families, neighborhoods, and
churches. The King James Bible calls it charity of the
highest order (I Corinthians 13).