Love in Bioethics for Patient Care in Developing Countries

- A.K.Tharien, M.D.
Christian Fellowship Hospital
Oddanchatram, Tamil Nadu 624 619, INDIA
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 49.

Health and Healing

I am asked to speak on the subject of love in bioethics for patient care in developing countries, which in other words is on the role of love in healing. Old concepts are changing yielding place to the new. The spectacular advances in the field of science and technology, especially in medicine in the last few decades have brought to light some of the deeper complexities in the make up of a person and the intricate mechanisms in the process of healing. Recognition is given for some new factors that play in health and healing.

Let us look into the concept of health, illness and healing. W.H.O. defined health, not as an absence of illness but as a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual well being, a state of dynamic wholeness. A healthy person is an integrated person. In body fitnes, in mind sanity, in relationship, harmony and in spirit a living response to his or her creator.

Ilness is then a disturbance of these harmonious relationship whether it be within himself or with his neighbour or with his creator. In the Cartesian, western concept adequate recognition was not given to the interdependence of body, mind, neighbour, and environment.

The human body is phenominally inteliggent, dynamically creative and a highly self correcting system. It has multiple means of reorganization, defense, repair, restoration and growth, functioning, within a larger ecological system. Our mind can influence body functions through the newly discovered phenomenon on of Pnemo-psycho-neuro humarol immune system.

A recent five year Wickinberg study made in USA revealed the following as important factors in the healing process:

20% by drugs, surgery and other scientific technology

35% by plascebo affect (ie. giving sugar pills and assure healing)

15% by Howthrone effect (ie. let off steam)

30% by unknown X factors.

Freud's psychoanalytic theory was based to a great extent on the assumption that sex is the greatest driving force and that most of the psychological problems arise from its repression. He explained many of our behaviors - love,hatred, fear, anger etc are in expression of sexual feelings or libido in modified forms. In short libido the unconscious sexuality is the basis of life and behavior.

Darryl Macer has postulated and emphasized the role of LOVE in life and all aspects of life, and it plays a central role through out life. We receive the gift of love when we are born. This applies to all creatures. It is the love and care of the mother or parents that protct and sustain the young one to survive. This is a biological heritage given to us by one's genes.

If we replace the word 'love' instead of sex in Freud propostions, will it not be more meaningful. Today we are experiencing the decay in the moral fabric of our modern society. As Macer says love of life is the central element in bioethics.

Mahatma Gandhi said love is the strongest but subtile force the world posses and yet the humblest imaginable. Jesus Christ said, I give you a new commandment, Love one another as I have loved you.

The Western pattern of medical care with its consumerist values has become an integral part of the developing societies. It often ignores the emotional and social factors in our competative, self centered commercial world. Medical care has become highly sophisticated, mechanical, expensive and often ignoring human values.

Role of Love and Compassion

During the World War 2 orphan infants were kept in a nursery in London. In spite of meeting all their needs they were not thriving. Specialists were consulted. They found everything perfectly done, so they called the psychologist.
They prescribed love T.I.D. (three times a day) what the children missed was motherly love and fondling - the tender touch and other expressions of love.

This factor of love is a very significant factor in the healing process. The Bibical narration of healing by Jesus Christ show how Jesus was moved with compassion. He touched the patient with love and his health was restored. Compassion means co-suffering, a sense of sharing the brokenness of the patient in his ailments, where there is a sense of rejection. Mother Theresa of Calcutta - India epitomises love in action when she looks after the destitutes.

A recent study made in a cardiac surgical centre revealed that patients who had faith in prayer and meditation had 15% less complications. Prayer creates a sense of tranquitity, calmness, relaxations and sobriety.

It is found that meditation generates chemical substances in the brain called neuropeptides. This can stimulate the production of immune cells - the T cells. the positive forces brought by prayer builds up faith in a super human power, which kindles hope even in an apparently hopeless situations.

Oriental Culture

In oriental culture, one important element is the family relationship and interdependence in contrast to the western individualistic culture. There is personal interdependence and attachment to one another in the family continue even after the child grows up.

In our hospital - The Christian Fellowship hospital, Oddanchatram, India we insist the mother to be always with the child to assure a sense of security and motherly care. Adult patients are also advised to have a loving bystander, even in the intensive care ward. This had a very favourable effect in the patient's faster recovery.

Ayurveda, the Indian traditional system of healing, defines health as the positive sense of well being and vitality. To enable any one to be restored to health, the community needs to rally around the patient, offer a wholesome environment of support and healing through a simple life style. The component of loving care involves a sense of sharing in the brokenness, at least by one's presence, a loving tender touch, an assuring look, words of love and sincere prayer builds up confidence and hope.

Discussion and Conclusion

Ethics for life cannot be legalised. There needs to be an unwritten code of love which moraly bind every living being to contribute towards positive growth of life. The parameters of progress in modern society is considered as economic development and applying utilitation principle. Love being a great force, should have a spontaneous role.

The basic need of a human being is to love and be loved. The professionals and dear ones together should form the healing team and should have the join responsibility in the process of prescriptive BIOETHICS.

Go back to EJAIB 9(2) March 1999
Bioethics is Love of Life An alternative textbook on cross-cultural ethics by Darryl Macer
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet: