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What Do Christians Think About Resuscitation?

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Resuscitation: Definition

According to the dictionary, resuscitation is the process used when an acutely ill patient is no longer breathing or has no heartbeat. It is the method used to get the patient breathing again and having a heartbeat.

It is not unusual for a very ill patient to have a note in his medical records whether to resuscitate or not.

Orders In An Acutely Sick Patient's File

The note in an acutely sick patient's file can say one of the following things:

  • Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR)
  • Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR)
  • Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR)
  • No code
  • Allow natural death

Whatever the order, it is legally placed in the patient's file by a physician based on a medical judgment, the patient involvement, consent from a member of the patient's family, or a designated person. Personal factors that are considered include the health and lifestyle of the patient, relationship with family, and philosophical factors. It is not an easy decision to make. Therefore, it is better to think about it before a decision has to be made.

What Interfaith Clergy Thinks About Resuscitation

Recently a group of clergy from the Interfaith Institute of Long Island hosted a webinar about resuscitation. Medical experts and religious leaders spoke about the ethics of Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders and end-of-life issues from a Christian, Jewish, and Muslim perspective.

The Rev. Donna Marie Field, Senior Minister of St. Paul’s Reformed Church in North Babylon, and Northwell Health clinical medical ethics consultant stated that Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) and Do-Not-Intubate (DNI) orders are not prohibited in mainline Christian faith traditions. In fact, they are widely accepted.

Rev. Field reminded listeners of what is taught in the Reformed Protestant tradition. She said "The Heidelberg Catechism" teaches that Christ is our focus and that should comfort us. It was Christ’s death on the cross that gives us eternal life, and not today’s modern medicines.

When natural death is occurring, a patient will suffer more if cardiopulmonary resuscitation is attempted. The resuscitation process can be painful and take away a person’s dignity while dying.

Rabbi Randy Ellen Sheinberg of Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park stated that Judaism teaches that life is sacred and a treasured gift from God. He stated that Judaism does not require the preservation of life for as long as possible no matter what the quality of life is expected after resuscitation.

Faroque A. Khan, Chairman of Interfaith Institute of Long Island and a practicing Muslim believes what the Quran says: "Life is precious and should be preserved" (5:32), but it also says, "Wherever you are, death will find you out." (4:78).

As a physician and as a person of faith, Khan believes life should be maintained until brain death, and then get out of the way and not impede the process of dying. He advises people to make end-of-life decisions in advance so that it will be easier when the time comes.

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A Physician's Job

A physician’s job is to treat a patient through reasonable means even if the treatment is expensive and disliked by the sick person. If a treatment cannot reasonably be expected to heal a condition, then the doctor isn’t required to offer it. Also, the patient or someone acting on the patient's behalf can refuse the treatment and that includes resuscitation.

Sometimes medical treatment is no longer about preserving life. Instead, it is only about delaying death that is imminent and inevitable. Cases like that involve putting the patient on a ventilator or feeding tube. Those methods aren’t lifesaving. Rather, they merely delay the natural process of dying.

It is not an easy decision for a family member to refuse medical treatment for a loved one. Some might think it is cruel or selfish. That's why the decision should be made in advance so the patient can have something to say about it.

When Is a DNR Order Appropriate?

There are guidelines concerning resuscitation. According to the 1999 resuscitation guidelines issued by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nurses and the Resuscitation Council, DNR orders are considered appropriate only under the following conditions:

  1. They are likely to be successful.
  2. They are likely to have outcomes that are acceptable to the patients.
  3. They are wanted by a mentally competent patient.

Personal Opinions

When one of my minister friends was in the hospital, the doctor asked if she wanted to be resuscitated, if the need occurred. She told her doctor that she is ready to die when the time comes, but for the sake of her family, she did not want to be resuscitated.

I, on the other hand, share only half of her decision. I am ready to die when God is ready for me to die. I do not want my death to be delayed. I want to die a normal life as long as possible, and I want to die a normal death when the time comes. My family has been advised of my decision.

I believe wholeheartedly in Ecclesiastes 3:2.

"There is a time to be born and a time to die."

I want God to make that decision, not a man or a machine.


Asking the Clergy What Faith Has to Do with DNR Orders

When to Resuscitate?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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