An Ethical Dilema

Part of the reason I started this blog was to “discuss things that are weighing heavily on me”, this specific dilemma has weighed heavily on me since I became a Christian.  To be honest, it has always bothered me a little, but I rationalized it out.  When I became a Christian it started to burden me even more. 

This is a question of whether I have or currently am committing murder, and there are really 2 parts to this dilemma…

 As background I work in a healthcare setting with a predominantly elderly population.  I have a patient who refuses to take her blood pressure medication because she “wants to die”.  Now, I know that in most cases not taking medication for hypertension won’t instantly kill you, but long term effects of noncompliance will eventually catch up with you.  So by honoring her wishes and not giving her the medication, am I killing her? And if I slip her the medication without telling her, am I sinning by lying and taking away her free will, arguably one of the greatest gifts God gave us?

Legally I am required to respect her wishes and hold her medication, but what about morally?  Luckily in this situation I was able to solve the problem; I told the patient who is a Christian that I am also Christian and feel like I am committing murder by holding her blood pressure medication (plus a psychiatric consultation was ordered), since then she has been compliant.

 The second part of this dilemma comes from my work with hospice patients. A common medication ordered is liquid Morphine Sulfate, Morphine is one of many drugs that is used to treat moderate to severe pain and it is used to treat shortness of breath, it is very effective with improving the hospice patients quality of life.  However, this medication can also cause respiratory depression. Many times in my career I have administered Morphine Sulfate to a visibly uncomfortable dying hospice patient, and many times they have died within half an hour of receiving the prescribed dose. Would the patients have died without that medication? Yes. Did the medication bring them to death early? I’m afraid only God knows the answer, and I sometimes fear the answer is yes.

I am at a loss here I don’t know whether the medication depressed their respiration and caused them to die, or it relaxed them and they were able to let go peacefully on their own. Again, legally I am bound to respect their wishes to die pain free with dignity, but on a moral level I struggle with this issue, to the point of wanting to quit at times.

The Bible is pretty clear in Exodus 20:13 (KJV)“Thou shalt not kill.”  I just wish wether I have killed or not was as clear.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 (NLT)

I believe my sins will be made right through faith, but that doesn’t mean that I struggle with them any less.


Filed under About Me

3 responses to “An Ethical Dilema

  1. Bill, This truly is a dilemma that I would not want to have to deal with. I have been around a couple of people with cancer who could not have dealt with the pain without the morphine. I think the best you can do is work from the side of loving compassion and ease their suffering. I have fibro-myalgia and know what it’s like to have a life that is wracked with constant pain. That’s no life. I thank God that the medication I have has taken care of it. I don’t take pain meds but if that was my only option, I would do it. I truly, in my heart, believe that you are committing no sin here. As far as the woman with the hypertension, which I also have, that was a very wise move on your part by telling her your feelings about her non-compliance with the doctor’s orders. Personally, I wouldn’t dream of not taking mine but I’m not in a hurry to die either. Excellent post! I’ll pray for you to have peace with this struggle, Teresa

  2. SB

    Thank you Teresa!
    I like how you said to “work from the side of loving compassion and ease their suffering” it is about the only thing I can do.
    I have been finding the Bible very helpful in this.
    In 2 Corinthians (12:9) it says: …“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” God’s grace is sufficient. Once I accepted Jesus into my life I was forgiven, and as long as I keep Him in my heart I will ALWAYS be forgiven.
    I took note in Philippians 3:13 where Paul writes “… I focus on one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”. My past is over, all I can do is ask for forgiveness and act in faith from this point on. I just have to keep reminding myself of this.

    • Amen. We are human and will always struggle with righteousness and make mistakes along the way but you are doing the best thing that anyone can and that’s staying in the Word! When I was struck down with the MS in jail, I constantly read the Bible. It was what I clinged to and the only thing that kept me going. I too have much in my past that I have been forgiven and I also have been richly blessed! Our Lord Jesus is a gracious and loving Savior. The miracles of healing that He has performed for me are vast and have made me love Him only that much more. Your profession is a hard one but I am sure that you do it well for you can read the compassion you have for those in your care through your stories. I did home health care for an 80 yr. old lady in a wheelchair with early stage alsheimers for about 9 months and it was the most rewarding job that I have ever had. God will bless you greatly for it, Teresa

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