Two perspectives on health care: An Orthodox Christian view

  1. Lemma
  2. Две концепции медицины: православный взгляд
  3. Russian
  4. Asliturk, Miriam
  5. Scientific theories and disciplines > Medicine - Ecumenism and dialogue > Westernism and anti-westernism
  6. 22-07-2018
  7. Зверев, Георгий [Author]. Две концепции медицины: православный взгляд
  8. Церковь и Биоэтика: Церковно-общественный совет по биомедицинской этике при Московской Патриархии.
  9. Russian Orthodox Church - traditional medicine - medicine - protestantism - Protestant Church - doctor - health care system
  10. Click Here
    1. <p>Георгий Зверев (2010). Две концепции медицины: православный взгляд. <em>Церковь и Биоэтика: Церковно-общественный совет по биомедицинской этике при Московской Патриархии</em>. Retrieved from: <a href=""></a> </p>
    1. The author states that presently the health care system has many problematic issues: too many doctors that see their profession only as a means of getting rich and are unprofessional despite their qualifications; and that the state cannot fund the health care system adequately and the system thus does not respond to people’s needs.

      These factors create a lack of trust toward the health care system. The author argues that the root of the crisis is ideological. He quotes Karl Marx as saying that no matter what position scientists take, philosophy will always dominate their ideas. The author believes that it is wrong to see medicine only from the point of view of materialism. Medicine in Ukraine and Russia, he argues, is based on Orthodox Christian principles that see health as a balance between the material body and the spiritual soul.

      In 1949, Soviet doctor Mudrov wrote that doctors should heal the patient, not the disease or its cause. This corresponds to the Bible and the words of Christ who said that He healed not leprosy but the leper. In the Christian paradigm, to heal a patient is to restore his or her integrity. The cause of a disease is seen as a broken connection with God. In Christianity God is “simple”: God is not a plurality of sophisticated entities but undivided oneness. After the Fall, the contradiction between body and soul started to rule the human existence. Sins, the author maintains, distance humans from divine harmony and this is the root of diseases. The traditional Russian health care understands that disease is the disruption of inner unity.

      The West, according to the author, chose a different path. After the Renaissance, Western Europeans developed an illusion that the human body can be understood fully and deconstructed to its smallest pieces. This was particularly characteristic of Protestant thought. This is why Rudolph Virchow’s (1821-1902) idea on cell pathology developed in Protestant Europe and then elsewhere in Europe (except Russia) and America. For Protestantism, the Church is not an actual community or tradition but a metaphysical entity, for them there is no spiritual action, and opinion has almost absolute value.

      The author maintains that presently there are two approaches in medicine. The first one, adopted in Russia, sees the human as a unity, and its disruption as pathology. The second approach, German and Anglo-Saxon, sees the body as a complex plurality and is focused on particular (separate) disorders in the organism. It sees a disease as a sum of syndromes, and symptoms as a sign of local pathology. In Russian medical tradition, if a disease has several syndromes and symptoms, all of them are viewed as having common roots and a shared pathology. 

      Another problem in the present day health care system is the destruction of Russian traditional relations of authority between a patient and a doctor. In the West, there is the concept of “informed consent” where a patient is informed about his or her condition and is involved in choosing treatment. According to the author this makes doctors less responsible for the treatment.

      In Protestantism, salvation is a state of being while in the Orthodox Church it is a process. For Protestants, the author argues, everything is simple – black or white; people are divided into saints or sinners, there are no gray zones. The author concludes that this makes Western medicine too categorical and too quick in making decisions.