Christian Belief and the Medical Establishment, Part One
By Fr. George Morelli
In August 2008, the California Supreme Court, doing the “work of the evil one” issued a ruling that physicians must artificially inseminate lesbian couples who request the procedure. Not to do so is discrimination. One justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote for the court: "The 1st Amendment's right to the free exercise of religion does not exempt defendant physicians here from conforming their conduct to the…antidiscrimination requirement." The California ruling went on explaining a physicians' constitutional rights to freedom of religion did not outdo the state antidiscrimination law because the state has a compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical care. (See: http://www.courtinfo.ca.g....) This ruling occurred even though one of the defendant physicians Dr. Christine Brody said she would not perform the procedure on any unmarried woman, heterosexual or homosexual. (See: http://www.signonsandiego....)
My first response is: Where is the discrimination? However an even more important question: Where is the illness? It seems to me artificial insemination with donated sperm, is an elective procedure, similar to plastic surgery for “vanity reasons.” I term such procedures “vanity surgery.” I am not suggesting plastic surgery for valid medical or psychological purposes such as body reconstruction after physical trauma, or severe anxiety or depression over a seriously dysmorphic [that is deformed] body part significantly out of shape, should not be performed. In such cases it is for healing not vanity, and it is a blessing such procedures exist to heal the infirmity of the patient.
The evil one works through us
A reader may question: “Come on, Fr. George, you are a priest but you are also a scientist: Do you really think these justices were under demonic influence?” My answer is to start by asking a question: “Have you read the outstanding book The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis? This book is written as a fantasy storybook: An elder devil called Screwtape has the task to training a novice devil named Wormwood, who happens to be his nephew. Screwtape tells his novice: "the gentle, sliding slope of habitual small sins is better" than any grandiose sin (adultery, grand theft, murder, rape). The senior devil Screwtape is constantly writing to Wormwood that it is not the obvious, easy to detect, large sins that are most efficacious in sending people to Hell, but it is the subtle hard to detect small thoughts and actions which influence minds and gradually and almost unknowingly take them away from God. For Screwtape speaks to his student to use undulation, keep falling back to the same little viewpoint that they feel they have a right to have. So in this sense, the work of the evil one is accomplished by the failings of humans themselves. Let people themselves do the demon’s works. Under the guise of “human rights,” the right to follow and practice the teachings of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is now abrogated. Religious freedom, guaranteed in the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States: “…religion …prohibiting the free exercise thereof," is taken away by the California Supreme Court from those who are medical practitioners.
The spirit of the Hippocratic Oath
The well known Hippocratic Oath has either been dropped from use in medical schools or has been substantially modified within the modern day post-modern godless medical practice we find in society today. One change actually compatible, if used the original oath penned by Hippocrates had physicians, for example swearing by the Greek gods: Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses. For most people including new physicians this oath would be now considered a mere historical reference. However, I would maintain the spirit of the medical practice principles in the oath should still be at the forefront of the spirit and practice of medicine. One principle in the oath is especially relevant to this commentary:
I will apply dietetic measures [medicine] for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I pray the reader has understood the point: The physician will act to cure the sick, In terms of the California Supreme Court ruling how is a Lesbian who wants artificial insemination sick? I maintain said this is a voluntary elective procedure. it has nothing to do with curing an illness.
I also do not see how any physician can be made to perform a procedure which is not geared to heal an illness or infirmity and against the fundamental teachings of his commitment especially as it is also against the teaching of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, --our true moral compass.
The Good Samaritan: guide as who is to be both patient and physician
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is so applicable here. The Samaritans as all know were the outcasts of the Hebrew people. They had intermarried with Canaanite idol worshiping pagans they had a watered down belief in God. They did not worship in the Temple in Jerusalem –but it is just this outcast that Our Lord uses as an example who should be healed of disease and infirmity and who would show compassionate mercy. A traveler was beaten by robbers and left for dead. It was the outcast, the Samaritan who came to his aid. So too in the case of real illness, if any person has an infirmity, is truly sick—be they Christian, or Jew, gay or straight: they should be given the best of medical science to heal their disease and the best of spiritual intervention, to pray they and all of us conform our lives to God’s will, and glorify Him.
I pray that the Christian physicians who specialize in fertility treatment stand for Christ and not only fight this all the way through our countries legal system, and if need by simply not perform such procedure no matter what the consequences. What is the government going to do? Arrest and imprison all? I do not want to get dramatic, but it is clear to all much medicine practiced by Nazi physicians during the 1930s and during World War II was unethical and immoral. Do we want American medical practice to emulate the Nazi era? Now is the time for American physicians to take a moral stand. I pray all of us who call ourselves Christians stand up and support these doctors.
Although I take a stronger stand on the need for those ill to consult the most highly educated and skilled physicians in seeking treatment, let us reflect at least on the great spiritual wisdom of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998) in his counsel:
I always indicate to people, who suffer from physical illnesses and want to be cured, to go to Christian doctors. They are always enlightened by God since they trust everything in Him. If they have good knowledge of their science, so much the better.
Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos. (1998). Elder Paisios of The Holy Mountain. Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain.
Demakis, J. (2008). Personal communication.
Lewis, C.S. (1961). The Screwtape Letters. NY Macmillan.
Morelli, G. (2005a, September, 22). What Do You Know: The Score Or The Saint? http://www.orthodoxytoday....
Morelli, G. (2005b, November, 13). The "Demon of Correctness": Religiously Correct Secularism. http://www.orthodoxytoday...
Morelli, G. (2006, September 05). Whose Church Do I Belong To: My Church or the Orthodox Church of Christ? http://www.orthodoxytoday....
Morelli, G. (2007a, February 04). The Spiritual Roots of Altruism: The Good Samaritan. http://www.orthodoxytoday....
Morelli, G. (2007b, December 17) Smart Parenting VIII: Fighting for Christ at Christmas -- Combating Secularism. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles7/MorelliSmartParentingVIII.php