Case Study: Healing and Autonomy

Patient’s Autonomy and Nonmaleficence

It goes without saying that the primary goal of any medical endeavor is to secure a positive outcome for the patient’s well-being. This idea is primarily justified by the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence, which build a basis for the healthcare and practitioner-patient relationship paradigm. In order to adhere to these fundamentals, medical workers are frequently urged to contradict the desires of a patient and his or her surroundings. However, such actions could only be justified either in case the actions were to be taken immediately to save one’s life or when a patient’s will might not be considered relevant due to a mental condition. In other cases, the patient’s autonomy is the primary argument in the treatment process, which should then be complied with the basics of beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Considering the following situation, where the decisions of the patient’s caretakers seem to be counterproductive in the context of treatment, implicit medical intervention might be considered as the most beneficial situation outcome. Researchers claim that today’s patient-practitioner relationship paradigm might be affected severely once non-advised autonomy is concerned, making it necessary to guide the patient towards the right decision without imposing one’s will (Fortunato et al., 2017). For this reason, it is the doctor’s primary goal to provide James’ parents with all the details relevant to the case, providing them with multiple situation outcomes. In such a way, the doctor will not break the fundamentals of patient’s autonomy while having a better chance of parents making a proper decision.

Christianity and Medical Care

The notions of health and sickness are deeply integrated into the fundamentals of Christianity, making them implicitly correlated with one’s spiritual state and behavioral patterns in the face of God. In fact, one of the most widespread and commonly used dogmas in the context of Christianity is related to the idea of God sending fellow humans challenges they are able to cope with on their own, becoming stronger as a result. However, the interpretation of this dogma varies from individual to individual, making it extremely hard to define the proper link between Christianity and the aspect of health and healing.

Considering these notions in the context of belief, some people claim pain and suffering to be the feeling that brings them closer to God, making it unacceptable to ease the challenge. Others, on the other hand, feel that medicine and healthcare, in general, were designed by the Creator in order for people not to go through everything he was meant to experience (“Christianity on health and illness,” n.d.). Thus, the perception of medical intervention in terms of Christianity is a highly individual matter that depends upon various factors like personal experiences and nuances of upbringing.

When speaking of James’ situation and its perception by his parents, it becomes clear that while Mike and Joanne have some faith in medical intervention’s beneficial outcome, their primary beliefs are aimed at finding salvation in religion. For this reason, they rely on the idea of God’s help in the first place, allowing medical intervention only in case nothing else works for their child. However, in the following context, Mike might consider the whole process of treatment and diagnosis from a completely different perspective.

To begin with, as a Christian, he should perceive every possible help in his case as assistance from above instead of considering it a sinful temptation. Secondly, while Mike sees the son’s disease as a challenge they should overcome with dignity, the real challenge lies within his decision to transplant his other child’s kidney to James. In this context, the idea that God does not make people deal with things they cannot bear should be a primary affirmation for the family. Thus, after making a sacrifice in order to save their family members, both parents and Samuel have the blessing of faith in their Creator, who is able to drive them through their journey of rehabilitation. Thus, pursuing the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence, Mike should encourage any treatment he is capable of getting in order to save his son’s life, as it is the only thing that should matter at the moment.

Spiritual Needs Assessment

Taking into consideration the aforementioned factors, it becomes evident that in order to obtain beneficial treatment results, practitioners cannot separate practical and spiritual aspects in the process of medical intervention. In fact, medical workers should define the ways in which patients’ spirituality might contribute to the notion of nonmaleficence and beneficence, making it crucial to cooperate in order to achieve desirable outcome. Researchers claim that despite the high level of religiosity among the practitioners, very few realize how to successfully intervene spirituality in the process of practitioner-patient relationship peculiarities (Sens et al., 2019). Thus, considering the following case, it is of paramount importance for the practitioners to conduct a dialogue with James’ parents.

The doctor should address the matter of spiritual participation in the overall process in order to make sure that the decision-makers do not place too much emphasis on religion in aspects where only medical intervention might guarantee certain results. For this reason, doctors should help the parents draw a distinct line between the aspects where faith is of great help and treatment processes where medical assistance is the key. In such a way, the autonomy of patients will not be violated, giving practitioners the chance to preserve adherence to the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence.


Christianity on health and illness. (n.d.). Web.

Fortunato, J. T., Wasserman, J. A., & Menkes, D. L. (2017). When respecting autonomy is harmful: a clinically useful approach to the nocebo effect. The American Journal of Bioethics, 17(6), 36-42.

Sens, G. R., Abdala, G. A., Meira, M. D. D., Bueno, S., & Koenig, H. G. (2019). Religiosity and physician lifestyle from a family health strategy. Journal of religion and health, 58(2), 628-638.

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