Adventures in Medicine

Medical School and Beyond!

How Far is Too Far?

on November 7, 2014

By now I am sure all of you have heard about Brittany the 29-year-old glioblastoma multiforme who took her own life on Sunday November 2, 2014 surrounded by her husband, mother, and best friend who just so happened to be an MD due to physician assisted suicide.  Since the first time I learned about physician assisted suicide while working on Masters in Bioethics I cringed and this is something I still do to this day.  18 months ago I stood in front of my professors and took the Medical Student Oath stating that I would do no harm to my future patients a variation of an oath I will be taking again in 2.5 years at my medical school graduation.  An oath every physician has taken “do no harm”…hmm is not giving your patient the means to end their own life harm?

It saddens me that 5 states allow this form of euthanasia as the physician is not physically killing the patient but in stead just writes the prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates that the patient can choose to fill and take.Thankfully, these states require two separate physicians 3 weeks apart to sign off and say the patient has a terminal condition and a psychiatrist to say the patient is mentally capable to make this decision.  Most states then require a 3 month waiting period before the prescription can be written.

For Brittany this meant she had to leave her home state of California and go to Oregon to get the medication as California is not one of the 5 states.  But who knows it is only a matter of time before another state follows suit.  Back when I learned about this is 2010 there was only 1 state, Oregon, and here we are 4 years later with 5 states.

Okay so Brittany had stage 4 astrocytoma, known as glioblastoma multiforme (for those of you who do not know this is a nasty big old brain tumor), which is a death sentence in itself and she did not want to live her last days in pain and suffering.  Let’s be honest when something is growing in your brain it is going to cause major problems as it compresses brain tissue.  But should she pick the day she is going to die?  What if God has a lifesaving miracle in store for her to come after November 2nd?  What if God was going to use her story as a powerful testimony to lead others to Christ?  Why did she not trust God?   So many questions but no answers.

In short Brittany wanted to die with dignity, a term now used to describe physician assisted suicide (Death with Dignity).  There are other ways to die without pain the biggest is hospice or palliative care.  This branch of medicine is for the terminally ill and dying to keep them comfortable.  Heck they can have tons of morphine (the 2nd strongest analgesic [medical lingo for pain-killer 🙂 ] we have) in high doses which as an effect could hasten death.   This field of medicine avoids invasive procedures so the patient can rest peacefully.  Or she could have found a way to kill herself without involving the medical field which is supposed to promote health and life not death.

We are not God and should not be playing the role of God deciding when it is our time to go.  I understand no one wants to suffer but God promises us that He will not give us more than we can handle and He always keeps His promises.  Look at Jesus even He suffered He did ask if there was any other way but there wasn’t.  He gladly took the suffering that awaited him as He knew that His suffering would allow us to spend eternity in Heaven.  While we don’t like to see anyone suffer we need to be there with them and empathize in their pain and suffering and do what we can to alleviate it there is a line that should not be crossed as we should not hasten death.

How far is too far?

About a month ago I was talking with a friend on Skype and we began to talk about the increase in spontaneous abortions (medical lingo for miscarriage) as a result of these pregnancy tests we have that can show a positive result so much earlier than before.  Some estimates say 60-80% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions in the first 3 weeks.  Knowing you are pregnant and lost a baby makes it so much harder on the mother and father.  The woman could have normal levels of hCG, estrogen, and progesterone and still miscarry.  My friend stated that if only we could figure out what would maintain these pregnancies and give these supplements to the mothers in early pregnancy to avoid this.  I thought about this and quickly said no that would be bad.  If this were the case I think this would give researches the missing key to grow a fetus to term in vitro (in a lab outside of the mother’s uterus).  If you think about it they discovered how to fertilize an egg in vitro and now do that to get an 8 cell embryo to kill for embryonic stem cells.

How far is too far?

As I stated above we know that progesterone is necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy well now we have a pill on the market known as the morning after pill that can be taken up to 120 hours after intercourse and will block progesterone receptors so that any ‘conception products’ will be expelled.  This means that an egg could have been fertilized and implanted in the uterine wall but the lack of progesterone will cause the placenta to dislodge.

How far is too far?

The medical field has changed so much, even in my lifetime, and continues to change on a daily basis as our knowledge base increases.  It seems like there are no limits; but what does this mean for us?  Well we need to pray for our doctors.  We need to encourage more Christians to enter the medical field especially if it is the only thing they can imagine doing.  We need to stand up for what we believe in.  We need to stay informed.

I am left wondering what the field of medicine will look like when I finally become Dr. Johnsen.  One thing I know is I am going to love it because for as long as I can remember there is no other job I could imagine myself doing.  Here I am 5 weeks away from completing the Basic Science portion of my medical education and getting ready to start preparation for the Step 1 exam.

Med school injections  Medicine Life


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Bek Moody


my journey in this world

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