Category : Health & Medicine

(HLR) Mark David Pickup–A Cure for MS?

Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering)was an important source for me in my search to understand my anguish. Salvifici Doloris is Latin for “Redemptive Suffering.” That precious Apostolic Letter introduced me to the idea that if I relinquished ownership of my pain to Christ, He might unite my suffering with His own. He could, in fact, give meaning and purpose to my suffering. That is what happened, and it continues to this day.

Multiple sclerosis was the perfect tool to smash my colossal pride and ridiculous sense of self-sufficiency, both of which had kept my faith shallow and small. (It was hard to be proud and self-sufficient when someone else had to dress me, tie my shoes, and cut the meat on my plate.) A new me began to emerge from the waves of my grief, no less vital than the previous man—just different. My chronic illness and serious disability became an integrated part of my life and faith journey. I no longer let them dominate my life.

Instead, suffering taught me how to make an unqualified surrender, to trust Christ when the stakes are horribly high, and to accept what was once unacceptable. Christian suffering on earth is part of the joy of heaven. That’s how it works. Is it worth it? Yes, I believe it is. The long journey in my wheelchair has brought me to a point where I can accommodate that which I cannot control. There is consolation and peace—I am content.

Now, at this late stage in my journey, comes the very real possibility of a cure for multiple sclerosis.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

In a New Yorker Article on Dying, [the late] Cory Taylor says so much if you are listening

No, I haven’t become religious; that is, I haven’t experienced a late conversion to a particular faith. If that means I’m going straight to hell when I die, then so be it. One of my problems with religion has always been the idea that the righteous are saved and the rest are condemned. Isn’t that the ultimate logic of religion’s “us” and “them” paradigm?

Perhaps it’s a case of not missing what you have never had. I had no religious instruction growing up. I knew a few Bible stories from a brief period of attendance at Sunday school, but these seemed on a level with fairy tales, if less interesting. Their sanctimoniousness put me off. I preferred the darker tones of the Brothers Grimm, who presented a world where there was no redemption, where bad things happened for no reason, and nobody was punished. Even now I prefer that view of reality. I don’t think God has a plan for us. I think we’re a species with godlike pretensions but an animal nature, and that, of all of the animals that have ever walked the earth, we are by far the most dangerous.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German-born medical missionary who was hailed as the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan” dies at age 87

Dr. Pfau, who had converted to Roman Catholicism and become a nun, discovered her calling to help lepers coincidentally.

In 1960, she was waylaid in Pakistan by a passport foul-up en route to a posting in India by her Roman Catholic order, the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. By chance, she visited a leper colony in Karachi, where she met one of the thousands of Pakistani patients afflicted with the disease.

“He must have been my age — I was at this time not yet 30 — and he crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal,” she told the BBC in 2010, “as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog.”

The encounter stunned her.

“I could not believe that humans could live in such conditions,” she told the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune in 2014. “That one visit, the sights I saw during it, made me make a key life decision.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Missions, Pakistan

(WEF) John Broich–Dunkirk survivors’ terror didn’t end when they were rescued

Documenting the reality of those shell-shocked survivors is what London’s Imperial War Museum had in mind when it recorded interviews of scores of veterans in the 1990s and early 2000s. Those interviews show that the horror stayed with many of them long after they were freed from a deathtrap between the German Army, the Luftwaffe and the sea.

As a WWII historian, I’ve found those tapes – many free to stream – substantiate the film’s depictions of anguish. But, even more, they add the dimension of time and the long echoes of that anguish which the film can’t capture.

On his 1999 recording, Will Harvey tells how shrapnel from a German bomb tore through his legs as he waited for his chance to board a ship. In the pain and confusion, he mistakenly thought his legs were gone. “You lost a bit of your senses.”

His voice cracks, but he covers it up with an out-of-place laugh. These are commonplace in the tapes, along with obvious restraint and overall evasion of grim details.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Germany, Health & Medicine, History, Military / Armed Forces

(Barna) The Aging of America’s Pastors

Pastors are getting older, and this has important implications for the future of the church. In partnership with Pepperdine University, Barna conducted a major study into how today’s faith leaders are navigating life and leadership in an age of complexity. The State of Pastors study—revealed at a Pepperdine event earlier this year—examined the shifting demographic of faith leaders, and the cultural forces responsible for the dramatic changes.

When George Barna published his 1992 findings in Today’s Pastors, the median age of Protestant clergy was 44 years old. One in three pastors was under the age of 40, and one in four was over 55. Just 6 percent were 65 or older. Twenty-five years later, the average age is 54. Only one in seven pastors is under 40, and half are over 55. The percentage of church leaders 65 and older has nearly tripled, meaning there are now more pastors in the oldest age bracket than there are leaders younger than 40.

The upward climb did not begin in the 1990s. In 1968, 55 percent of all Protestant clergy were under the age of 45—that is, the majority of all church leaders were in their 20s, 30s and early 40’s. In 2017, just 22 percent are under 45.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sociology

(IB Times) Alcoholism epidemic: More than 1 in 8 Americans are now alcoholics

The largest change was in the most severe alcohol use category. The number of people who had received a diagnosis of alcoholism over the period of the two studies shot up by 49%, affecting 12.7% of the total population. This means 1 in 8 Americans received a diagnosis of alcoholism in the year before the latest survey.

“The increases were unprecedented relative to the past two decades,” study author Bridget Grant of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, told IBTimes UK.

Despite its prevalence, Americans are not sufficiently aware of the alcoholism crisis.

“The increases in alcohol related outcomes may have been overshadowed by increases in less prevalent drugs like marijuana and opioids, although all increases in alcohol and other substances are important.”

Read it all.

Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(NYT) On the Front Lines of Ohio’s Heroin Crisis: Playwrights

“In the Rust Belt, it’s a situation where everybody’s heard about it and everybody knows it’s a crisis,” said Nathan Motta, the artistic director of the Dobama Theater in Cleveland Heights. “Everybody is one or two people from somebody who is suffering.”

At least five plays about heroin abuse have been produced in northeast Ohio alone in the last year as the state’s residents grapple with the surging epidemic. The Columbus Dispatch reported in May that at least 4,149 Ohioans died from unintentional overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and other drugs in 2016, a 36 percent jump from the prior year. This year’s overdose fatalities are set to outpace last year’s, according to the report.

Heroin-themed plays have surfaced elsewhere recently, too: at a high school in New Market, Md.; a community theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and a children’s theater in Roanoke, Va. And on Broadway this spring, the new play “Sweat” — which won the Pulitzer Prize in drama in April — featured two characters who abuse heroin in working-class Reading, Pa.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

(AP via CBS) Euthanasia deaths becoming common in Netherlands

Euthanasia has become a common way to die in the Netherlands, accounting for 4.5 percent of deaths, according to researchers who say requests are increasing from people who aren’t terminally ill.

In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world that made it legal for doctors to help people die. Both euthanasia, where doctors actively kill patients, and assisted suicide, where physicians prescribe patients a lethal dose of drugs, are allowed. People must be “suffering unbearably” with no hope of relief — but their condition does not have to be fatal.

“It looks like patients are now more willing to ask for euthanasia and physicians are more willing to grant it,” said lead author Dr. Agnes Van der Heide of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, The Netherlands, Theology

7 Bishops based in Melbourne writer to the Premier of Victoria about the Proposal to legalise Euthansia

Dear Premier
We, the undersigned leaders of faith communities in Victoria, commend much of the work of the recent Victorian End-of-Life Choices Inquiry, which identified the need to improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care for all Victorians.  However we strongly reject the proposal to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Victoria.

Better care – not killing

Human dignity is honoured in living life, not in taking it. Even though an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide may be motivated by a sense of compassion, true compassion motivates us to remain with those who are dying, understanding and supporting them through their time of need, rather than simply acceding to a request to be killed. It is right to seek to eliminate pain, but never right to eliminate people. Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) 3 Churches chosen to try to solve ‘national’ bat problem

Three churches have been chosen to pilot a £3.8m scheme to solve the “national problem” of bats damaging churches.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) said it hoped the money would allow bats to live “in harmony” with congregations.
It added it viewed the cash as “a practical solution” to the problem.
The churches involved in the pilot, before the project is rolled out, are in Rutland, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

Read it all.

Posted in Animals, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry

White House opioid commission to Trump: “Declare a national emergency” on drug overdoses

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report on Monday stating that its “first and most urgent recommendation” is for the president to “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.”

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day,” the report notes, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

The commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, states that the goals of such a declaration would be to “force Congress to focus on funding” and to “awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”

Read it all and see also this report which says nearly 40% of Americans use opioids to manage pain, according to a federal government study, with deaths more than quadrupling between 1999 and 2015.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Office of the President, President Donald Trump

(CT) Joni Eareckson Tada–After 50 Years in a Wheelchair, I Still Walk with Jesus

You’ve vocally opposed assisted suicide laws, including in your home state of Californianoting that laws of this kind expose “a fundamental fear of pain and disability.” How do you see this fear impact the way we as a culture respond to those with debilitating illness, chronic suffering, or disability?

People have a fear of pain. People have a fear of dying. Fear is what has driven the legalization of euthanasia—but fear should never ever be the foundation for social policy. It should not be society’s role to help people end their lives.

Most people, when they are at the end stages of life, are afraid of pain, they’re afraid of abandonment, they’re afraid of isolation, they don’t want to be a burden to their families. But all these issues can be addressed. They are problems that have solutions—like better pain management, better support services, better family counseling. Let’s pour resources into making it easier for people to live and not to die.

Compassion is often a motivating factor for those who favor physician-assisted suicide—including Christians who support it. In your view, how should Christians rightly understand and express compassion toward those who are suffering?

The first thing Christians ought to do before they even work on compassion is get a biblical view on suffering. Most Christians would rather escape, avoid it, drug it, medicate it, divorce it, institutionalize it—do anything but live with it….

 

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(CT) Mark Yarhouse–Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon

Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.”

If I am drawn to a conversation or relationship with her, I hope to approach her not as a project, but as a person seeking real and sustained relationship, which is characterized by empathy as well as encouragement to walk faithfully with Christ. But I should not try to “fix” her, because unless I’m her professional therapist, I’m not privy to the best way to resolve her gender dysphoria. Rather, Christians are to foster the kinds of relationships that will help us know and love and obey Jesus better than we did yesterday. That is redemption.

If Sara shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.

The exception is that, as a counselor, I defer to a parent’s preference for their teenager’s name and gender pronoun. Even here I talk with the parent about the benefits and drawbacks of what they want and what their teenager wants if the goal is to establish a sustained, meaningful relationship with their child.

Also, we can avoid gossip about Sara and her family. Gossip fuels the shame that drives people away from the church; gossip prevents whole families from receiving support.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Nearly 2,000 children in the UK+Ireland referred for help with gender identity

The number of children in the UK and Ireland being referred for specialist help because they are confused about their gender has risen by more than 2,000 per cent in eight years. Almost 2,000 children were seen by doctors last year, some as young as three.

Specialists attributed the increase in part to an increased willingness in society to accept gender diversity, with prominent transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner emboldening children to raise their concerns. They warned, however, of potential difficulties maintaining staff recruitment in line with rising demand.

According to data released by the Gender Identity Development Service, commissioned by NHS England, 1,986 people under 18 were referred and accepted for specialist treatment in the past year, compared with 94 in 2009-10. The youngest were aged just three, with seven children that age referred since 2009. The most common age at referral was 16, accounting for 24 per cent of all cases since 2009.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Sexuality

(Patheos) Roger Olsen–Is There Any Solution to the Transgender Controversy?

Apparently, some self-identified transgender people want to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex that they are not yet physiologically. In other words, they have not yet undergone, and perhaps do not plan ever to undergo, sex change surgery. So, to be very specific, a person with “male parts” who identifies as female wants to use the locker room designated for females….

…I do suspect the source of controversy is the idea of a person with “male parts” using a locker room designated for girls and women. (I suspect few men really care about females using restrooms or locker rooms designated for boys and men.) To be very specific: I suspect many men and women care about anyone with “male parts” using the same restroom or locker room as their daughters and granddaughters.

So let us please look at the controversy through that lens in order to clarify it.

I propose that we distinguish between gender and sex in this controversy and insist that a person use the locker room (restrooms are really less a problem because women’s have stalls) designated for the sex he or she still is—until he or she has completed sex change hormonally and surgically. Otherwise, the specter (realistic or not) of sexually male persons claiming to be women walking around naked (locker rooms have showers) in women’s locker rooms is unavoidable.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology