Doctor and PatientThe October 27th Pittsburgh shooting at a Jewish synagogue that killed 11 shook an entire nation to its core. Many have asked how such a tragedy could happen, and, united as one, the nation mourns the 11 lives lost on that fateful day. The mourners include one of the nurses, Ari Mahler, at Allegheny General Hospital. Mr. Mahler, who is Jewish, provided medical care to the suspected shooter.

In one article, the nurse reported that he was gravely concerned about his parents, who he thought might number amongst the victims. Still, he went on to do his job, which was to give medical care to the shooter. The Washington Post shared Mahler’s social media post: “As his nurse, or anyone’s nurse, my care is given through kindness, my actions are measured with empathy. And regardless of the person you may be when you’re not in my care, each breath you take is more beautiful than the last when you’re lying on my stretcher.”

Contrast Mahler’s actions with a Meijer pharmacist who refused to provide a prescription for a miscarriage drug for a woman in Petoskey, Michigan. The woman explained that the medication was to accelerate a miscarriage and to prevent infection. The pharmacist didn’t believe her when she said that the fetus was no longer viable. He cited his religious beliefs as he refused to fill the script. According to a CBS report, the store’s policies were not followed. The woman was needlessly embarrassed and put through the stress of finding a pharmacy that would fill her prescription.

Biblical Examples

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is chastised for healing a man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were watching Jesus’ ministry very carefully, trying to find any reason to stop his message. In chapter 3, verse 4, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

The Pharisees were silent. That didn’t stop Jesus. He went on to restore a man’s hand. Instead of praising God for health, verse 6 says, “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

Three of the Gospels tell the story of a woman with an issue of blood who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. According to Jewish law, the woman would have been ceremonially unclean, and anyone who touched her would have also been unclean for a period of seven days. When Jesus realized she touched him, he didn’t get angry or upset. He healed her.


Health is a very complex issue. It’s not only that it’s personal and intimate, it’s that your health also affects you, your family, your friends, and even your community. Compounding that, then you bring a team of medical professionals with their own knowledge and opinions about your health.

Complicating things further, your own religion and upbringing might affect what you believe about healthcare, and even doctors have their own moral convictions. Indeed, some hospitals put restrictions on what type of care can be provided. For example, Catholic hospitals won’t provide birth control or physician-assisted suicide, even if that is what the patient wants.

Still, the patient should come first. Mahler, the Pittsburgh nurse, is a fine example of strong medical ethics. The Michigan pharmacist instead chose to grandstand. Had he simply followed store procedure and had a co-worker fill the prescription, he could have maintained his perceived moral superiority without embarrassing the patient and causing her undue stress and grief.

It’s hard to imagine Jesus living in today’s time. What would he do when confronted with one of these medical dilemmas? He didn’t engage with his critics, the Pharisees. He went on with his mission. He healed people who were considered spiritually unclean- including a leper and the Centurion’s servant, even though the Centurion was a Roman soldier, a gentile. It’s safe to say that Jesus would put the patient first. How do healthcare providers, ministers, and laypeople balance their own morals against that of a patient? The answer has been the old med school standby all along: Do No Harm.

Category: Society

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