The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

Why Medicine Needs the Church

For the ears, you can listen to an audio recording of this presentation. [high fidelity audio playable under all personal computer operating systems via VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player with the codecs for FLAC et al, OS X QuickTime with the XiphQT plugin, etc., on many Android-based mobile devices, and on iOS-based mobile devices via apps such as FLAC Player or Golden Ear]

Why Medicine Needs the Church

presentation at Adult Forum by
Raymond Barfield MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy
April 27, 2014

Why Medicine Needs the Church

Ray Barfield MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy
Schools of Divinity, Medicine, and Nursing
Duke University

What is medicine?

image of book cover Jeffrey P. Bishop, The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying, University of Notre Dame Press, 2011, 411 pages.

The “Traditional” Doctor-Patient Interaction

painting of doctor visiting a patient at home

How Medicine Changed:
Physical Exam

painting of doctor with ear to the torso of a patient

Graphic Instruments: Late 1800s

drawing of device strapped to wrist of a patient

X-Ray (1897)

photo of patient under instrument with 3 workers at close range

Electrocardiogram (1912)

photo of patient with hands and a foot in vats, with large apparatus

Clinical Laboratory (early 1900s)

photo of workers with microscopes for pathology and bacterialogical exams

Evidence-Based Medicine (Late 1900s)

graphic of process of comparing outcomes from treatment group vs. contol group

What’s happened to the rest of the person’s story?

drawing of doctor looking down throat of patient

Seeing who is in the room…

Apart from a true story docs emphasize the wrong things

CAUTION This sign has SHARP EDGES - do not touch the edges of this sign - [tiny print] also, the bridge is out ahead

With multiple specialists communication worsens . . .

photo with 'STORE CLOSING' and 'NOW HIRING' banners both hung outside same store

Decisions are made without a real grasp of what flourishing means

photo of mouse wearing helmet as protection from mouse trap with cheese

The BIG Issue . . .

How do we DIE in America?

Multiply relapsed cancer
Advanced HIV
Heart disease
Other Complex Chronic Condition

graph of increased death rate as an individual suffers a series of ehealth crises

Docs can find it hard to talk about death . . .

cartoon of doc telling patient 'There is no easy way I can tell you this, so I am sending you to someone who can.'

Even patients and families may not know how to say what they need to say.

cartoon of nurse telling mouse with trap snapped on his neck 'You must clearly explain your problem'

Where do we encounter death now?

Video Games

screenshot from first-person shooter game


image of televsion program cartoon character Kenny


photo of someone famous being rolled in a wheelchair

Death Panels

image of Sarah Palin who falsely characterized proposed Medicare policies

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.”

Woody Allen


image of sign at limits of town named Uncertainty

The GOOD NEWS proclaimed in the church should change everything

cartoon with patient telling doc 'I eat, I exercise, I do not drink or smoke ... but I am still going to die someday? That changes everything!'

Does it?

JAMA: Dana-Farber Study

graph showing end-of-life discussion AND spiritual support from medical team lead to increased choice of hospice care instead of aggressive interventions or stays in intensive care unit

How do the practices of the church prepare us ?

The ill, the suffering and the dying are not just making treatment decisions, but are, in real time, facing ultimate questions about themselves, those they love and the nature of the world.

We cannot understand the meaning of a decision when we are ill or dying if we do not consider the whole story . . .

So, what is a story?

Capturing Experience

cover of book by Peter De Vries titled 'The Blood of the Lamb'

How does our Christian story change ‘ever since that day’?

I am the resurrection and the life. John 11:25

Thank you!

photo of child holding sea shell