Medicine as Ministry: Reflections on Suffering, Ethics, and Hope
Margaret E. Mohrmann, M.D.
This book has a price tag from Eden Seminary and highlights that end less than halfway through the book. This book reads like it would be better as a series of lectures and maybe that is why I didn’t finish it in seminary. And even though it is short, it was not a fast read for me.
As I was reading this book, my husband, a pharmacist, was presenting at a conference. The topic was “to dispense or not to dispense.” Pharmacists have a “right to refuse” to dispense a medication. A pharmacist might refuse because the prescription looks forged or the patient has refilled too many times recently. Sometimes a medication would not be dispensed because the pharmacist has a religious objection to the medication. My husband was encouraging the other pharmacists to explore how their faith and scientific knowledge influenced their decision to dispense or not dispense. As I listened to a small group conversation about this topic, I heard absolutes and standing firm in faith. For some gathered, changing the circumstances didn’t change anything.
This is the opposite approach from Medicine as Ministry which argues that each person/patient has her/his own story. We cannot treat or participate in the healing without hearing the story. The parts of the book where she focused on each life story were my favorite parts of the book.
Because there are great ideas in this book, I recommend that we need to see each other as those whom God loves when caring for each other. I want to remember the idea that there are times I am the Samaritan and times I need someone else to be the Samaritan. I want to listen for the stories of each life when helping a person make important decisions. Although I highly recommend some of the ideas from this book, I struggle to recommend the book. It was difficult for me to read and finish despite all the good ideas it contained.
“The question is, ‘How shall I live the life I have?’ Health-seeking behavior is not death prevention; it is life enhancement (21).
“We shall not always–in fact, we shall rarely–get from our reading of scripture either direct answers or magical formulas that solve all our ethical problems. Rather, what we shall always obtain there is a dawning understanding of who God is, of how God acts with us, and of how we, therefore, are to act with each other” (59).