Moral Dilemma on Health Care

In mid-March I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, as Terri Schiavo lay dying in her hospice, and soon before Pope John Paul II died.

There is no cure for MS. There are, however, “disease-modifying drugs” that are supposed to delay disability and minimize relapses of the disease. The National MS Society encourages that as soon as a person is diagnosed with the disease, they should immediately be started on one of these disease-modifying drugs.

MS is not fatal. However, there can be serious side effects to the disease-modifying drugs, including heart problems and liver failure.

So, I decided not to take the disease-modifying drugs, on the grounds that they buy into the “culture of death” and its premise that “quality of life” is of utmost importance. I feel that taking the drugs would be playing russian roulette - they MIGHT improve the future quality of my life, or they MIGHT kill me. Not taking the drugs accepts a potential future of disability and suffering, but supports the “culture of life”.

But the other night I read in the catechism that we are morally obligated to use whatever reasonable medical resources available to protect our health.

So, am I violating that tenet of the faith by refusing these drugs? Are they a “reasonable” protection of my health? Or do the serious potential side effects make them “extra-ordinary” enough that I can refuse them?

Tammy I will not make myself out to be an expert in theology or the CCc but I think the issue is weighing the ‘cost’ versus the benefit. By cost I do not mean the financial expense but the cost in complications, side effects or suffering.

As I heard an ethicist describe it, you are obligated to accept treatment if the treatment is likely to provide a benefit rather than prolonging suffering. So take the situation of a cancer patient who is terminal. It would make no sense to give that patient more chemotherapy because it is unlikely to benefit the patient and the side effects are substantial.

In your case, while there are possible side effects of ANY drugs, I have several friends and friendly acquaintences with MS (we live in the PNW and there is a much higher incidence here). They are all on a variety of medications and this has provided great benefit. One young mom was diagnosed about twenty years ago. Because of the medication she was able to raise her kids and while she has some problems off and on, for the most part she does very well. Another friend was diagnosed several years ago and once his treatment plan was in order, has really been very healthy and able to work, raise his kids, play sports etc. Decades ago an MS patient was in a wheelchair within a few years and often died very young.

Do not think that effective drugs, even if there are side effects, should be spurned. Please reconsider. There have been some incredible advances in MS treatment. Find out the risks and benefit and if nothing else, try the medication to see if it helps. Also avoid stress, get exercise, and take care of yourself.

Lisa N

Lisa N

I would second what Lisa says. I understand your concern, but make sure you are making a thoroughly informed choice. Also make sure you aren’t reacting out of disgust for the ‘quality of life’ argument, rather than what is truly best for you. You might want to check out whatever alternative treatments are out there as well. God bless you.

In Christ,

True, some of the side effects from meds CAN be quite serious, serious enough to scare us. However, how likely is it that YOU will suffer from that side effect? If there is only a 1 in 10,000 chance that you will suffer liver failure, I’d say go for the new drugs.

We need to know the potential side effects to make an informed decision; however, sometimes knowing can scare the pants off of us.:eek:

And as far as culture of life/culture of death thing-God gave us the ability and the compassion to develop medicines and technology to make life better for the disabled. It is satan that distorts that compassion in people so that they feel that death is preferable to life as a disabled person.

This issue is too important for you to be asking random people on the Internet about their view of what the Church teaches. Please talk to your priest about this before you make any life-altering decisions.

[quote=Catholic2003]This issue is too important for you to be asking random people on the Internet about their view of what the Church teaches. Please talk to your priest about this before you make any life-altering decisions.

Good point. Thank you.

I’m sorry to learn of your diagnosis.
I also have been under observation for MS - but so far they seem to think I don’t have it.
Because of my situation though, I’ve been reading alot about it lately.

I really don’t think these issues involve the cultures of life or death.
Instead - what you are dealing with is risks and choices.

Some people with milder forms of MS can get away with not taking drugs for their condition and lead a normal life.
Some need the drugs to control their symptoms.

It is like with any other ailment. All treatments for any malady carry some risk. Your doctor will tell you what those risks are, and chances are they are probably low enough to give it good consideration.

Please don’t be afraid to help yourself if you can.

I am sorry to hear of your diagnosis. Although I do not have MS, I have been through a wild year medically All synthetic drugs have side effects. Some have a higher incidence and/or more serious ones. I would talk to your family, spiritual director and doctors about your concerns. And if you aren’t sure from what the doctor told you or you have personal or familial reactions to medications, you can always seek a second opinion. Only you, your family, spiritual director and medical team can determine what “reasonable” is in your case. Your in my prayers. Thanks and God Bless.

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