Religion and Medicine Relationship
For centuries, medicine and religion were closely related. Many religious services and traditions are presented as care of the surrounding people. For example, in Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, one of the main rules is a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness as these religions glorify the charity as a great virtue and merit. In ancient literature, it is mentioned that the first hospitals practically grew on the so-called shelters for sick, disabled, and infirm. Christianity gave rise to the belief that the path to the physical health of a person lies through the resolving of spiritual issues. Buddhism asserts that the treatment of a disease is only a medical problem. However, this religion does not deny that spiritual health is important for physical. Despite the fact that people have different religious beliefs and different attitudes to medicine, medical personnel should make every effort to save human life.
These days, for many Christians, the question of the compatibility of religion and medicine is still relevant. Originally, God created a person as a perfect creation. Adam and Eve did not know any diseases. In fact, people were made to live forever. Many scientists have questioned why a man grows old and dies, whereas almost all body’s cells are able to regenerate. For example, skin, blood, and others cells are constantly renewed during the life. However, at some stage, there is a failure in the organism. For the Christian, it is not a secret that illnesses and death are the results of the Fall, about which it can be read in the third chapter of the book Genesis (Gen. 3 New International Version). Many Christians believe that if a disease is allowed by God, thus, there is no need to get rid it using the service of medicine. On the other hand, people know that God gave gifts to people. In such a way, He gave healing knowledge to doctors as well. The Creator established this order.
In the Christian culture, there is an idea that God punishes the wicked by diseases or sends crosses to the righteous reminding them of the transience of earthly existence. The influence of theological texts and terms on different aspects of European culture including the development of medical concepts is often implicit and revealed only after a careful reading. Hitherto, the term placebo, refers to a harmless substance, for example, distilled water, which is sometimes offered as medicines. Its effectiveness depends on a patient’s faith in healing. The appearance of the term is associated with the first word of the final lines of Psalm 114: “that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (New International Version). The Latin version is “Placebo Domini in regione vivonan” (Fahlbusch, 2008). The fact that Luke, one of the four evangelists, was a physician has made a significant impact on the perception of medicine. About seventy doctors, who lived in different times, were canonized by the Church.
In such a way, these days, most of the Christians believe that doctors with the help of God and gifts that He gave them can heal diseases. Medicine can relieve suffering and even fully restore health. Nevertheless, Christians still reject many modern medical procedures. First of all, it refers to the organ transplantation. Although this daring and dangerous medical procedure embodies all the achievements of modern science, it is strongly discouraged in Christianity (Clerc, 2004). Thus, medical workers often face the problem of patients’ rejection from the organ transplantation even when it is vitally important. Another example lies in the fact that much time was spent for Christians to adopt a definition of brain death, which is a major in organ transplantation. As a rule, the basic number of organs for transplants comes from people who are defined as patients with a dead brain. Their organs are maintained by functioning with the help of life support machines in the intensive care units (ICU) and have either a small or zero brain activity (Clerc, 2004). According to clinical practice, these patients are an excellent source of the material for the transplant because, apart from the brain, other organs have a high chance to be healthy. As a rule, with the consent of a patient’s family organs may be removed and quickly replanted. These days, many Christians do not want to accept the fact of the dead brain. Frequently, they do not allow medical workers to disconnect life support machines. According to Brown (2013), “Conventional medicine, or biomedicine, constructs human bodies as biological organisms and employs material treatment to cure individual diseases, while also, at least as an ideal, attending to patients’ mental, emotional, and social-cultural needs” (p. 3). These days, many Christians resort to alternative treatment including prayers, herbs, and a visit to the holy places. Many believers resort to conventional medicine.
In Christianity and Buddhism, there are several common features concerning medicine. First of all, it is the attitude to abortions. Both these religions claim that murder is the most terrible act that a person can commit. However, in some cases, abortion is inevitable. Thus, medical personnel try to explain all the medical problems that may arise in the future. However, only a patient should make a decision concerning this issue. Besides, many patients do not resort to abortion because of their religious beliefs.
Buddhism is a very ancient religion. It originated more than two and a half thousand years ago in India as a religious and philosophical doctrine. Buddhism has created a canonical literature, numerous religious institutions, arts, and education. Buddhism can be regarded as a religion, philosophy, an ideology, a cultural center, a way of life, and a path of spiritual development (Mazars, 2006). This religion has a very special attitude to medical care. In Buddhism religion, Medicine Buddha exists. It is a special aspect of the Buddha – a particular manifestation as a healer. Many centuries ago, the Buddha revealed himself in the form of Medicine Buddha in the world and taught the doctrine of diseases, their causes, and treatment. On the basis of his teachings, treatises on Tibetan medicine are composed. According to his teaching, mental health of a person is extremely important. In the book Sutra of the Medicine Buddha, it is stated that “From the beginning, the Buddha realized that just as one can suffer from the physical disease, one could also suffer from an unhealthy mindset” (Xingyun, 2005, p. 157). To cure both the body and soul, Buddhists resort to the knowledge of Tripitaka. According to the teaching, most of the diseases in Buddhism are associated with bad deeds of past lives. Buddhism, as well as Christianity, rejects active euthanasia and artificial prolongation of life (Mazars, 2006). Followers of Buddhism do not recognize artificial insemination. Thus, when a family cannot have children, they never resort to this procedure. Medications are acceptable in this religion. Many believers meditate when they have certain indisposition. Moreover, they believe that it can clear their soul, and thus, the body. Unlike some other religions, accommodation of the Buddhist in one ward with the representative of other religions is not a problem (Mazars, 2006).
Religious beliefs may lead to conflicts and discussions between a patient and his/her family, as well as between the medical personnel. A doctor should prevent this kind of conflicts if he/she has necessary knowledge and respect for the beliefs of a patient. However, in some cases, it is rather insufficient to take into account only the religious point of view, because there are also laws and attitudes of society. Thus, it is hard to find a consensus between religious and secular law and the point of view of a particular culture. Frequently, it is very difficult to adapt the religious point of view to a decision in modern medicine. However, most doctors do not know anything about the religious beliefs of their patients. Therefore, starting the treatment of a patient, a doctor should clarify his/her religious preference. The key to the resolution of ethical issues is to clarify patients’ interests. My spiritual perspectives are reduced to the fact that only medical personnel can treat a patient from diseases. However, being a Christian, I consider that a prayer is also an important aspect of healing.