Where is the line between faith and medicine?

The long debate about rationality and conformity in both medicine and religion has been intense on many levels. Some people claim science requires certainty, validity, and reliability; others believe faith and optimism are essential for scientific advancement. Some reasons for this argument might include the enormous prosecution of scientists during the Roman inquisition. However, the role of faith in medicine has become more apparent in the last few centuries. Physicians today are noticing the similarity between experimental placebo effect and a religious believer faith. The question entails if a physician can equally be spiritual and scientific simultaneously and how it affects patient care and physicians’ medical ability.

The recent viral video of Houston physician Dr. Stella Immanuel claims about Hydroxychloroquine’s positive effects (an arthritis medicine) on COVID-19 patients. The claim was dismissed swiftly dismissed by the FDA due to implication arrhythmia. Several findings showed that Dr. Immanuel was a pastor at a local church. This significantly decreased her claim’s credibility, which resulted in the withdrawal of her video on Twitter. There are several physicians out there that successfully balance faith and medicine. For example, Dr. Chiduzie Madubata effectively explained how he balanced religion and medicine as a clinician. He notes, “I am not a clergyman once I enter the hospital.” As a Christian and a scientist, I repeatedly conflicted with my religious belief and scientific understanding, especially when I encounter controversial arguments. For example, when my colleague asked me a question: if a person suffers from Hereditary hemochromatosis and becomes pregnant, should they abort the child and spare them future suffering, or should they carry the child till term? I fixated on that question for a long time before providing an uncertain answer; I honestly cannot answer it. This was a challenging question because I had multiple answers. As a Christian, more specifically, a Catholic, I may not see abortion as a feasible solution. However, there are other achievable solutions with medical advancements, such as therapeutic phlebotomy, iron chelation therapy, and dietary regulation. So, the answer depends on patient choice.

Growing up, my highly religious parents were the opposite of each other; my father, a clergyman, and my mother a nurse. Once, I asked my mother and father the difference between a miracle and a treatment. Their response? My mum said that uncertainty could be a frightening experience, but faith provides assurance. My dad said science is man’s medium of understanding the unknown. Is it unscientific for physicians to pray? Some will say that relying on faith portrays a lack of confidence. Others might say humans are accustomed to certainty and familiarity, and when faced with difficult situations, prayer can act as a means of support or a shred of comfort.

Patients undergo difficult and scary situations from the loneliness felt in the MRI machine to the battle between life and death during surgery. Some patients depend on the physician’s ability others depend on faith comfort, and few depend on both faith and medicine. Overall, a physician’s religious beliefs may or may not be necessary for medical care; however, their medical skills and knowledge are essential in satisfying patients’ medical needs.

Moses Anthony is a premedical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com 

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