Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New CMF publications

Turn complex bioethical issues into opportunities to proclaim Christian truth with the updated edition of Prof. John Wyatt's book Matters of Life and Death ISBN 978-1844743674

Also by Prof. Wyatt is CMF files No. 40 "The doctors worldview" http://admin.cmf.org.uk/pdf/cmffiles/40_doctors_worldview.pdf

How to misuse Pascal's wager!

This article published this month in the journal Heart does not use Pascal's wager appropriately.

Shaw D, Conway DI. Pascal’s Wager, infective endocarditis and the ‘‘no lose’’ philosophy in medicine.
Heart 2010;96:15–18.

Give it a read and see if you can identify how the wager is misrepresented and made to conform to a philosophical pre-commitment to naturalism.

My thoughts on the paper:

Firstly, the Wager was Pascal’s conclusion that human reason alone could not discern God, and is not simply a ‘hedging your bets’ approach.

Secondly, if the position of the believer is true, then it incorporates the meaning of existence in the other person’s life without compromising the pursuit of reason and intellectual enquiry. Conversely, if a person has believed human reason to be supreme, but after death finds this that God does indeed exist, then he or she will have lived a life of attenuated intellectual enquiry because they have chosen to ignore God’s hand in their reason. It does not force one to choose reason over faith as we are often led to believe.

Thirdly, it seems they are not clear about the definition of faith, for I presume they mean ‘blind faith’ when they use ‘faith’ alone. The etymology of the word ‘faith’ indicates that it is cleary evidence-based (see Oxford English dictionary). I suspect the type of faith to which the authors are referring would be more closely related to a delusion than to true faith.

But, perhaps most worryingly, they subscribe to the belief that that there is no evidence for God. This is indeed a bold statement as, in order to make it, a pre-requisite would be infinite knowledge of all things. Surely a finite mind cannot reasonably state that there is no evidence for an infinite God?

Articles to make you think

Have read through these and think about how you might respond to someone who uses them to either support or refute Christianity.

1. Young LJ. Opinion Being Human; Love: neuroscience reveals all. Nature 2009;457:148

2. Boyer P. Opinion Bening Human; Religion: bound to belive? Nature 2008; 455: 1038-1039

3. Curlin FA. Lawrence FA, Chin MH, Lantos JD. Religion, Conscience, and Controversial Clinical Practices. N Engl J Med 2007;356:593-600.
4. Meyer SC. The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the biological society of Washington 2004;117(2):213-239.

5.Whitfield J. Born in a watery commune. Nature 2004;427:674-76.

6. Culliford C. Spirituality and clinical care. BMJ 2002;325:1434–5.

7. Trevours JT, Abel . Chance and necessity do not explain the origin of life. Cell Biology International 2004;28:729-739.

David Lingstone prayer

David Livingstone was a Scottish doctor and missionary to Africa. As a young man, this was his prayer.

"Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me.
Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.
Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Thy service and to Thy heart."

It takes a lot of courage to pray this!

Watch online: Physician assisted suicide debate

On 27 October 2008 we ran the public debate under the following motion:

"This house believes that physcian assisted suicide should not be legalised in Scotland"

Videos are separated by round:

1. Politicians http://www.blip.tv/file/2841222


Gordon Macdonald, (Public policy officer for Care Not Killing, Scotland.Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Scottish Liberal Democrats for East Renfrewshire)


Jeremy Purvis MSP, (Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, author of Dignity with Dying consultation paper (2005))*

2. Physicians http://www.blip.tv/file/2840377


Dr Martin Leiper, Consultant Palliative Care Physician, Roxburghe House, Dundee


Dr Libby Wilson, Friends At The End (FATE)

3. Ethicists/lawyers http://www.blip.tv/file/2840942


Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research for the Scottish Council of Human Bioethics, Edinburgh.


Dr Alasdair Maclean, (Qualified in Medicine and Law, expert in end of life decisions, University of Dundee School of Law)

4. Theologians http://www.blip.tv/file/2841753


Rev. David Robertson, Minister of St Peter’s Free Church of Dundee and author of "The Dawkins Letters: challenging atheist myths"


Professor Paul Badham, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Director of the Alistair Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, patron of Dignity in Dying

Chair: Professor Martin Pippard, Professor of Haematology & former Dean of Dundee Medical School.

Accompanying article published in the Monthly Record, publication of the Free Church of Scotland, is available here: http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B0LFVK28zpYeMWRkZjZhZDItZDJmYi00YzQ0LWIxYTQtZDc3ZmY1OTRkZjkz&hl=en

Background: In 2005, Jeremy Purvis MSP introduced a Private Members’ Bill into the Scottish Parliament, calling for a change in the law to allow Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) for those with a terminal illness. This attracted the support of six other MSPs. In January 2008 he tabled another motion calling for the legalization of PAS but could gain the support of only one other MSP. On 26 March 2008, Margo MacDonald, Independent MSP for Lothian, made an impassioned appeal for a change to the law on assisted dying. Ms MacDonald has Parkinson’s disease and ‘doesn’t want to burden any friend or doctor but wants to be able to end her life in case she has the worst form of Parkinson’s’.

As a Christian, I have long been intrigued by how people’s belief frameworks give rise to their stance on a given issue. How do such frameworks hold up under scrutiny? Are they consistent with what the person perceives their framework to be? Are they internally and externally valid and reliable? What are the presuppositions and the logical outworkings? Since beginning my medical training this interest has inclined towards the application of these frameworks to patient care, and accordingly these questions have taken on an increased degree of importance. On this cerebral canvas, the move to legalize PAS in the United Kingdom was unlikely to escape my attention.

The idea to do a debate on PAS was provoked following a long discussion with a colleague in February 2008. Our talk really opened my eyes to the immediacy of issue, the myths surrounding it and its implications for me as a Christian. Moreover, the reality that termination of life might become an accepted therapeutic option for people at the end of their life was personally disturbing. Accordingly, the impetus for organising such a large-scale debate was, firstly, that such an important subject which would have long-lasting and far-reaching implications for society deserved to be in the public sphere. Secondly, if PAS was legalized it would profoundly and permanently alter the practice of medicine in the UK. Would it be too much to say it would denature it? Thirdly, the subject deserved to be debated rigorously by experts from more than one discipline, so we had four speakers on each side of the house representing politics, medicine, ethics/law and theology.

We sought to recruit the best speakers we could for each discipline. Fortunately, everyone we approached had experience of this issue before, with some even on the frontlines, and was delighted to participate (see above).

Imperative to me, with such a sensitive and emotive subject, was to maintain the integrity of the event. I realised early on that I personally would be seen as being biased in my view on PAS, and this was subsequently pointed out to me by several ‘well-meaning’ supporters of PAS on the night of the debate, because I hold to a Christian worldview. But of course the belief that anyone is morally neutral is fallacious.

Over 350 people attended and, contrary to what some have implied, they were of varying backgrounds and beliefs. The pre-debate vote showed that the overwhelming majority supported the motion. The post-debate vote was again overwhelmingly supportive of the motion.

Disclaimer "This debate was organised by students from the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) student group at the University of Dundee Medical School. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF or the University of Dundee. This debate was funded by: (i) anonymous donations (ii) group fundraising."

A Physicians prayer

Dear Lord,

Thou great physician, I kneel before thee. Since every good and perfect gift must come from Thee, I pray that you give skill to my hand, clear vision to my mind, kindness and sympathy to my heart and strength to my body.

Lord, I ask for a singleness of purpose and the ability to lift at least a part of the burden of suffering from my fellow man. I pray that I will always realise that being a physician is a privilage and honour. And, Lord, take from me all guile and worldliness so that with the simple faith of a child I will rely on Thee.


CMF medics prayer

Heavenly Father,

We thank you that through your Son, our saviour, we receive new life and hope. Lead us by your Spirit in our work today. Enable us to fulfil our medical calling in love, wisdom and integrity. Give us knowledge and diligence in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Help us to bring comfort to the anxious and sorrowing. Free us from selfish ambition. Grant us sincerity in all that we say and do. Strengthen us to persevere in the face of fatigue. Keep us always mindful of your redeeming purpose and maintin our confidence that death will finally be overcome though Jesus Christ our Lord.