The ethics of the relationship between physicians and patients has been explored since the establishment of the Hippocratic Oath in the 4th century BC. Ethical issues addressed in clinical and medical ethics include the right of conscience for healthcare professionals, the role of the professional in decision-making, patient autonomy, and informed consent particularly as they find expression in the daily practice of medicine. Additionally, this section includes practical Christian analysis of care issues that arise at the bedside. For resources exploring the broader topics of healthcare allocation and economics, as well as models of healthcare delivery, please see our healthcare resources.
In Spring 2022, I wrote an article about the sudden onset of uncontrollable tics in teens who had watched TikTok videos of people with Tourette’s syndrome. My article looked at why The Atlantic’s “The Twitching Generation” was one of the most popular posts on bioethics.com. One year later, Azeen Ghorayshi reports in The New York Times that the TikTok tics have largely disappeared. Now doctors are trying to understand why some teens were susceptible to tics in the first place.
At bioethics.com, I curate and post articles from the media that deal with bioethics issues. A typical post at bioethics.com is a title, link, and short blurb from an article in the mainstream media, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters, or the Associated Press. Over the past year, one bioethics.com post received more views in a single day than any other post, and it won by a large margin: “The Twitching Generation” by Helen Lewis at The Atlantic (See post here). I posted “The Twitching Generation” on Monday February 28, 2022. On Saturday alone it received 2,512 views, and as of April 2022, it had 5,338 views. Those numbers are just for the bioethics.com post which serves as a thoroughfare to the actual article. The topic is apparently of interest to our bioethics readers, so let’s look at what we can learn from Helen Lewis’s article about teens and technology.
Ministry leaders who foster vital congregational community can constructively address the adverse trends in the growing national crisis regarding the upturn in mental illness. In the previous piece on ministry along the mental health continuum, the charge to ministry leaders was to be part of the solution: faith communities serve a stabilizing function that increase disease resistance by reversing isolation. Here, that challenge will be expanded. Ministry leaders can indeed be part of a larger social movement that promotes mental health and fulfills our Gospel calling. Awareness of trends in mental health care can assist clergy to customize and deepen the support offered to struggling parishioners.
Is the clamor regarding an uptick in untreated mental health cases an absurd prophecy or another conspiracy theory? The data would suggest otherwise. There is reputable evidence that increasing numbers of people are inwardly perturbed and exhibit symptoms such as sleep disturbance, suicidal ideation, and addictive behaviors. The COVID-19 pandemic itself brought evidence-based epidemiology -the data driven study of patterns in health and disease- into the public spotlight.
Culture is so easily influenced by the entertainment industry. This is why I am sounding an alarm about a very dangerous message in a film released earlier this summer. It’s simply titled Me Before You.
[T]he progress that has been made, combined with this hype of decontextualized and often exaggerated claims by the media, continue to fuel the hope of medicine and technology: “If we could only accomplish a little more . . . .” But more is never enough. And hope, commingled with the fear of death (Heb 2:15), can fuel an attitude of “taking and keeping” (the “agency”), one that grasps at and clings to the technological hope of immortality. From here one can easily (and subtly) fall prey to worshipping technology and progress as gods.
What are we to make of the claims that a person’s gender identity conflicts with his or her body? Should someone undergo gender-reassignment surgery to match one’s sense of identity, or should it be the other way around? Answers to such questions will depend fundamentally on our understanding of what it means to be a human being, an understanding that derives its intelligibility from the larger story (or metanarrative) in which it is situated. For Christians, this metanarrative is informed by Scripture, which attests to the creative, redemptive, and restorative activity of God as revealed in Christ Jesus.
Throughout the last century, the spirit of the age exhibited a voracious appetite for human life. Medicine became the source for myriad racial enmities and immoral projects catalyzed by ascendant science and reckless medical research that was completely oblivious to the dignity of human life. The contingent bioethical lapses reflected the impact of social Darwinism on an age of physicians who primarily acted as scientists, not healers.