DNR vs. WLC 135, 136

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by CovenantWord, Nov 12, 2019.

  1. CovenantWord

    CovenantWord Puritan Board Freshman

    A recent sad event in my immediate family has sparked me to ponder the ethics of the "do not resuscitate" contingent treatment order (DNR in medical acronym). My understanding is that DNR requires the medical profession to not intervene when the heart stops beating, generally consigning the patient to immediate physical death. The argument I have heard favoring DNR is the likely prevention of a lingering, suffering, or vegetative demise. Yet, WLC 135 exhorts us that "The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by . . . a sober use of . . . physick, . . . comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent." WLC 136 confirms with "The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, . . . the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; . . . and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any." My several-year, low-level employment in hospitals and nursing homes left me with the impression that there comes a point beyond which the impetus toward imminent physical death cannot be reversed. If such a point actually exists, and if it can be reliably discerned, I have interpreted it to be the hand of Providence which cannot, and therefore should not, be stayed. However, it is common knowledge that certain treatments sometimes can restart distressed hearts in otherwise reasonably healthy bodies. My attempt to reconcile this tension is to propose that DNR is appropriate in the circumstance of a reasonably certain prognosis of imminent death which medical intervention cannot forestall -- but wrong in all other cases. Anyone have wisdom on this matter? Thank you.

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