Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

Part I: Chart

Medical Indications

Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

Patient Preferences


    Speedy dialysis will ensure that James is relieved of excessive buildup of fluids and high blood pressure.

Upon worsening of his condition in the course of the year, he urgently needs a kidney transplant and the only  ideal donor is his twin brother Samuel

Although the kidney transplant would save the life of James, it also poses significant threats to Samuel post-surgery.


   The patient’s autonomy to use their faith in making decisions and strongly believe that God will restore the health of their son was respected by the physician.

The patient’s father, Mike, is faced with making the decision of letting his son Samuel donate a kidney. He is therefore struggling with the possibility and believes that a miracle might happen as this is a major test of the faith that he has.

Quality of Life

Beneficence, Nonmaleficence, Autonomy

Contextual Features

Justice and Fairness

     The essence of dialysis is that James will have the functioning of his kidneys restored and the quality of his life improved. However, based on the decisions that were made by his parents due to the respect for autonomy, his condition instead deteriorated significantly and he now needs a kidney transplant. Besides the transplant, he will have to undergo a dialysis thrice a week, failure to which he can possibly lose his life.

Although James’s quality of life is expected to improve following a transplant, his brother’s health status and quality of life is expected to decline owing to a long recovery period and having to live with one kidney thereafter.

Non-maleficence is revealed when Mike struggles to make a decision on whether or not to let Samuel  donate a kidney to James and put him through  a rigorous surgical process, a lengthy recovery period and associated risks thereafter of having only on kidney.



     Joanne and Mike are faced with the challenge of deciding whether or not their younger son Samuel should donate a kidney to James.  It is not in order to leave the decision for Samuel to make since a minor like him cannot really understand what he is consenting /agreeing to. Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative

Mike is left to wonder if it is just and fair to let Samuel go through the surgery ordeal and the associated risks thereafter.

Joanne’s input in the donation of a kidney by Samuel is not well expressed. Could it be that she is being excluded  in this decision?(unfairness)



 Part II: Evaluation

            From the Christian worldview, the most pressing principle in this case is that of autonomy. Basically, autonomy refers to a patient’s ability to make individual choices regarding their personal health and treatment based on their experiences, values and beliefs (Shelly & Miller, 2009). In this context, autonomy is observed when Joanne and Mike having been previously inspired by a sermon on healing after a friend gained her mobility, made a decision for their son James not to undergo a dialysis and instead take him for a healing service. Therefore, the parents exercised their autonomy and placed the health of their son in their faith. Two days later after the worsening of their son’s condition to an extent that he not only needed dialysis but also a kidney transplant. Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative


            Autonomy also dominates when Mike struggles to decide whether or not his son Samuel should donate a kidney to James, his twin brother since he was the only ideal donor. However, although the autonomy principle has a significant role in this case, the principle of justice is also pressing. This is seen when Mike struggles to decide if Samuel should be put through this intense medical procedure just to save his brother. It is however evident that Mike hopes that this is a test of his faith in God which will finally lead to redemption through healing as well as restoration for his son’s health status (Meilaender, 2013).

When making decisions related to healthcare, patient autonomy is a major consideration that patients are rightfully entitled to. According to Gillon (2015), medical providers are obligated to respect and permit patients to make personal decisions regarding their health and medical treatment. In cases where a minor/ a child patient is involved and is not fully autonomous in making decisions, a child’s ability to fully comprehend their medical condition and the consequences related to any choices made should be considered.

Based on the Christian worldview, the priority of the four principles would be ranked based on an individual’s faith. If the principles were to be ranked based on the author’s worldview, then in order of significance would be as follows: autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice. Autonomy since respect is an integral theme among Christians and the association between God and man. The creation story reveals that God valued free will and even gave man the freedom to make choices (Meilaender, 2013). The principle of non-maleficence morally obligates medical providers not to make decisions or take actions that cause harm to others but rather, act for other people’s benefit.

On the principle of beneficence, man is commanded to love neighbors as oneself. Basically, this command relates to how our friends, neighbors and patients are treated by us. As healthcare providers, we seek to ensure that other people benefit more and this is what motivates care providers. The principle of justice requires that every patient should be treated equally and resources be fairly distributed. Essentially, all patients need to be attended to with an equal level of compassion, empathy, care and dignity irrespective of religion, culture, socio-economic status or race (Shelly & Miller, 2009).  A major challenge among Christians is seeing for justice in a world/environment that is generally unjust. Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative


Gillon, R. (2015). Defending the four principles approach as a good basis for good medical practice and therefore for good medical ethics. Journal of medical ethics, 41(1), 111-116.

Meilaender, G. (2013). Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.

Shelly, J. A., & Miller, A. B. (2009). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing (2nd ed.).Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. ISBN-13: 9780830827657

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Biomedical Ethics in the Christian Narrative



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