The United States has many different religions, some of which may have differing views when it comes to conventional care of our elderly. One of these religions, Christian Science, may be difficult to understand, especially when it comes to end of life directives and dealing with medical personnel.
The reason for this is simple: While followers of Christian Science read from the King James Bible, they do not believe in medical care. In fact, their founder, Mary Baker-Eddy, described Christian Science as a return to “primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” In other words, they believe that prayer should be used over medical science.
This is not to mean that Christian Scientists avoid all medicine. They go to dentists, eye doctors, and physicians for broken bones, however, prayer is their main defense against illness.
As you can imagine, this belief can often come into direct conflict with modern medicine. So how do physicians handle a situation like this? In the case of children, the courts can be called in to intervene. However, when you have an adult or an elderly Christian Scientist, there isn’t any way to dictate their treatment. They have the right to choose or not to choose medical help.
Speaking with a physician, we learned that the medical community first tries to let the patient know what their options are. While a doctor wishes to treat a patient, if it comes into direct conflict with their religious beliefs, the adult patient always has the final say. Many doctors will try to compromise with the patient, but are under no obligation to treat someone who does not want to follow their suggestions.
In recent years, Christian Scientists have made concessions to their beliefs. In March of 2010, the Christian Science church, who has been having membership issues, has been trying to reposition their belief as a supplemental treatment alongside modern medicine. The church believes that this will help to cover their practitioners with health insurance suppliers and government legislation.
If you have any questions regarding Christian Science and the elderly, along with your rights as a member of the church, please call the Kabb Law Firm at 216-991-KABB (5222).