Thursday, November 22, 2007

Separation of Religion and Medical Care

Dr. Tan Chek Wee: "Community hospitals must not aid conversions" (ST Forum, 22/11/2007)

I don't know about you all but a chill ran down my spine when I read the letter by Dr. Tan (see above). If the events he recounted are true and accurate, a most disturbing series of events it is.

But before I say anything else, allow me to first clarify that, lest any of you all be mistaken, my following comments are not targeted at any religion in particular.

That said, my opinion is that while I recognise the utility, albeit one which is problematic in nature, of advising patients to look towards religious faith as a source of support, the promoting of a particular religious faith to patients, especially those who are already of a particular faith, will strike me as a deplorable act of preying upon the emotional/psychological vulnerabilities of patients.

It is even more deplorable if those promoting the particular religious faith are those who are, at the same time, providing medical care to patients. This, considering how patients are in a rather vulnerable position of being placed under their care, would be a gross abuse of their position as caregivers.

Thus, with the above in mind, I would second Dr. Tan’s call for stricter guidelines to be put in place to ensure the separation of religion and medical care.

Also, seeing how the lady patient described in Dr. Tan’s letter mentioned that “she was visited by young people whom she said were related to the staff in the community hospital, bearing gifts and repeatedly asking her to convert to Christianity” (emphasis mine), I would call upon the unnamed community hospital mentioned in the letter to thoroughly investigate the presence of irregularities by their staff, which, in this case, would evidently include the bringing in of outsiders to promote a particular religious faith to patients.

Moving on, another point which I found interesting and that was mentioned in Dr. Tan’s letter would be how supposedly a woman staff of the unnamed community hospital told the lady patient in the letter that “it was God who saved her from death”.

Of course, the woman staff member may have meant this in a figurative manner but if she meant it literally, I suppose the doctor(s) & other medical staff who provided treatment to the lady patient would not be very pleased at having all their efforts simply being attributed to God. But then again, I suppose it is possible that these medical staff perhaps felt the same way about who or what it was that saved the lady patient from death. Yet, that said, I wonder whether God would have saved the lady patient’s life even if she was not sent to that community hospital and received treatment there.

Indeed, it annoys me slightly whenever I read or hear about how some religious believers attribute fortunate events in their lives to the God or gods which they believe in. They may be doing so only in a figurative manner but I suppose some of them do truly believe that it was the supernatural which should be credited for their success and/or fortune in their lives.

I don’t know about you all but the act of attributing credit to the supernatural for all fortunate events in one’s life is rather self-demeaning and/or disrespectful of the contributing efforts put in by others. I mean, for example, to say that “I achieved good results for my exams this semester because God was watching over me” does ignore, if not negate, one’s own hard work in preparing for the exams, the efforts by one’s lecturers & tutors and by one’s fellow coursemates who one have revised together with. If one does indeed believe that it was the supernatural which was behind one’s successes in life, perhaps one should just sit back, do nothing and let the supernatural provide all the successes that one prays for. Of course, I suppose my Christian friends would reply to me saying that God only help those who help themselves and/or that one should not test Him.

In addition, it irks me when religious believers use the occurrence of something good, which they have earlier prayed to their God or gods for, happening to them as being evidence of the existence of their God or gods and He/They have answered their prayers. But if you question them whether the non-answering of their prayers then therefore indicate the non-existence of their God or gods, I suppose that they will most likely either answer that it is just the case that their God or gods having not answered their prayers yet or that He/They does not approve of what they have prayed for or that they are ready/worthy enough for what they have prayed for yet.

Hmm… Then I suppose that according to such logic, the God of Fortune a.k.a. 财神爷 does really exist also. I mean, countless people have prayed to him for monetary fortune and some of them do strike a windfall after doing so. As for those who have not had their prayers answered, I guess that they will gain monetary fortune sooner or later or that the God of Fortune disapproves of their prayers because they are praying for too much money or that they are ready/worthy enough yet to handle large sums of money. Also, I suppose it is entirely possible that the God of Fortune answer people’s prayers for monetary fortune through them becoming rich after they worked hard & long in their chosen careers; it is just like what was said in the movie “Evan Almighty”, when one prays to God for something, God don’t answers one’s prayers by giving one what one prays for but by giving one the opportunity to obtain what one prays for.

Okay, I said enough for now; return back to my exam revision, I need to.

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