Certain medical-ethical issues are more com­plex because of confusion over what the real issues are. One example is medical “cure” vs. medical “care.” Christians are especially prone to make this mis­take because our God clearly commands us to care and provide for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the fatherless, and others less fortu­nate.

My contention, however, is that caring for people with medical problems cannot be carried out to the full extent of God’s mandate without necessari­ly providing “medical” care. Before developing this distinction, I will start with an observation and a conclusion from that observation.

It has been observed and documented on numerous occasions what happens when DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders are written in the hospital. Medical and nursing staff and families begin to treat the patient as though he had a contagious disease. There is less interaction with the patient, and nurses have even been known not to answer the patient’s call button.

My conclusion to this observation is two-fold. First, avoidance of the patient reflects a general denial of and unwillingness to acknowledge death in our society. I will not, however, explore this attitude, as it is not my primary focus here and likely contributes little to these observed changes with patients.

Second, medical care and care of basic needs (one expression of love) have become virtually one and the same. That is, medical care has come to be seen as a basic need, even a “right.” That inclusion, however, is severely erroneous. Basic needs are clearly efficacious to health and life, whereas what is done medically is often equivocal relative to health and life (sometimes, even detri­mental).

You see, the only change in the status of the patient when he becomes DNR is that “all that can be done” will not be done, medically speaking. Nothing else has changed. He is (at that moment) no closer to death, his disease status has not changed, and he is the same person. On this basis, can there be any other conclusion than that the person for whom medical care has been stopped has also lost the care and support due a person in his position. In other words, the person who no longer needs medical care is already dead! Now, most people would not go so far as to say that, but I reply that “actions speak louder than words.”

If medical care were always efficacious, then it might qualify as a basic need. However, it is easily demonstrable that medical care is far less than efficacious in most areas. The greater prob­lem in our society seems to be that we now expect institutions to provide what was formerly provid­ed within families, neighborhoods, and churches. The King James Bible calls it charity of the highest order (I Corinthians 13).