Saturday, December 22, 2007
FAITH AND REASON ON A COLLISION COURSE
Benedict defends the compatibility of faith and reason. In his Regensburg address he used the compatibility of faith and reason make the claim that coercion in the name of religion is against God's very nature.
...not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.
Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God.
In news that would impact this compatibility, a "war" has developed across the pond. The Independent reports:
A fashionable London hospital is bracing itself for more resignations next week in a growing revolt against tough new rules drawn up by the Catholic Church barring doctors from performing abortions or prescribing contraception to patients.
Two board members of the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in north London have already resigned in protest at the decision to accept a code of medical ethics issued by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
This week the hospital's chairman, Lord Bridgeman, a senior member of the Conservative Party, is expected to follow them.
The medical code bars doctors from offering any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on the value of human life and on sexual ethics. ...
Senior figures in the Catholic Church were enraged when it was revealed that doctors associated with the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth were not only performing abortions but also carrying out sex change operations.
This prompted Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor to write to the hospital demanding its code be strengthened so that such practices are explicitly banned.
I applaud the Cardinal for defending the Catholic faith. However, the ban on birth control in a hospital setting is contrary to the tenet that faith and reason are part and parcel of the very nature of God. I pity the doctors caught in this trap.
Let me explain. In my own experience recently, I was in the hospital when my doctor decided I would need to take the drug Coumadin (generic, Wayfarin). The drug is used to address blood clots, a condition that is associated with breast and lung cancer. The drug has some restrictions on diet that can be a nuisance, and so I asked if there was another drug I could take, and was told no, there is no substitute. Blood clots, of course, cause heart attack and stroke if left untreated.
Wilford Hall Medical Center provides the "Special Concerns about Coumadin During Pregnancy." There you can read:
...one of the drawbacks for Coumadin is the potential for birth defects and/or hemorrhage in the offspring of mothers taking the drug. There is apparently a link between some birth defects and Coumadin taken by the mother during early pregnancy....In most circumstances, Coumadin should be avoided in women of child bearing age unless there is absolutely no other option. ...However, there are situations in women of child-bearing age where Coumadin is still the mainstay of therapy.... If a young woman needs to start Coumadin during the child-bearing years, it is very important to educate the patient on the potential harm to the unborn child and establish an effective birth control plan. ...For the woman who is not planning or desiring further children, sterilization by tubal ligation or hysterectomy would be the most reliable preventative step. In younger women anticipating a new or enlarging family, Coumadin should not be prescribed if any other possible choice can be used. ...If Coumadin is still required for clinical reasons, then birth control intervention must be prescribed as well. A longer acting form of birth control such as an IUD or Norplant are probably best, since daily birth control pills could be accidentally or purposefully discontinued, risking an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy while taking Coumadin.
This is not the only drug with dire side effects for a fetus. Cancer drugs carry warnings as well, and medication used to treat other diseases are probably in the same category, though I have no experience with them.
The Catholic answer is NFP, of course. It is also commonly said that we call the couple practicing NFP "parents". Many couples following the Church's prescribed method of birth control have experienced an unexpected pregnancy.
Reason dictates that for a patient taking Coumadin pregnancy must be avoided. Faith dictates that reliable methods of birth control are off limits to the Catholic couple. Marriage dictates that sexual relations are essential to stability.
As this scenerio plays out over the course of time, I can envision a scientific solution in the form of foolproof methods to determine what part of the woman's cycle she is in on any given occasion. However, at present that is not available.
What is a doctor supposed to do when faced with the situation of a female patient of child-bearing age who requires Coumadin for a blood clot?