Daily Archives: April 28, 2010

Belief in God Relieves Depression

I wanted you to read an excerpted from, “Belief in God Relieves Depression,” an interesting article in the The Washington Times by Jennifer Harper:

The “Big Man Upstairs” is getting accolades from mental health specialists who say they are finding that a belief in God plays a positive role in the treatment of anxiety and depression. University of Toronto psychologists reported last year that “believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress,” their research showcasing “distinct brain differences” between believers and nonbelievers.

In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, “belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment,” said the new research, which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The operative term here is “caring,” the researchers said.

“The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement.”

“In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief,” said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values. “It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared,” she said.

“We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors,” said Michael Inzlicht, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who led the research. “They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error,” he said.

A fellow member of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations with me, lawyer and psychiatrist Robert Rogan, DO, JD, wrote this in response:

Faith is “the substance of things hoped for.”

Many of us can still recall what living without Christ was like – everything was up to us. Striving and uncertainty were the norm for many of us. A serious disease was terrible and overwhelming with seemingly no chance of hope.

Realizing there is Someone infinitely greater who really cares about us, even loves us, brings great assurance and relief.

Today, unfortunately, we’re taught to be an “army of one.”

As per the article the belief that a Supreme being cared for the patient made the difference in healing and recovery. We can even believe that our mistakes and failures are for a good (perhaps divine) purpose.

Have we not as physicians noticed the trend that patients with faith recover sooner and may even have ‘thinner’ charts?

Of course the researchers did not cover the actual experience of salvation through Christ and the freedom associated therewith. Also the article did not specify the actual brain responses revealed in the study.

Nevertheless, for us as Christian physicians we need to stay alert to the patient’s faith and work with that faith to develop the best treatment plan for them.

Our faith is in that same Supreme being (in most cases). But, our current politically correct environment makes our work more challenging and that is where our faith comes into play.

Let us not forget that God designed our brain’s neurochemistry too.

All I can say, is, “Amen.”

Bedside Economics and Healthcare Reform – A Christian Doctor’s Response

My dear friend, Al Weir, MD, is an oncologist in Memphis, TN. He has served in Africa as a missionary and served with the Christian Medical Association. He’s just written a wonderful devotional called, “Bedside Economics” It is based upon Psalm 106:3, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.” Al’s writings alway provoke me to deep contemplation. None moreso than this one:

It has provoked me to deep contemplation.

He was an oncologist transplanted from the Caribbean to Canada where he worked in a small British Columbia city. We sat beside each other at a medical meeting and began to discuss the economics of healthcare in both his country and mine.

In discussing a given treatment regimen, both effective and approved for use, he made the statement, “Those drugs are too expensive for the 5% of people whom thy actually save, so I don’t use them.”

In the midst of our national healthcare reform discussion we are all aware of the cost of healthcare. Healthcare costs too much for many of our patients and for our country’s economic health. Sometimes in our discussions, and even in our practice decision making, we may confuse the macro economics of patient care with the economics of caring for the individual patient who is sitting in front of us.

The cost of care in each is extremely important, but the doctor’s considerations in each are quite different. As doctors, we do have a special level of understanding of the healthcare arena and thus have a responsibility to inform the national debate regarding the expenditure of healthcare dollars. We should enter this debate publically without the bias of personal gain and seek to maximize both good for patients in general and for our nation as a whole.

However, when we face our individual patients with diagnostic and therapeutic decision making, our concerns are modified.

We, as Christian doctors, understand that we have a covenant relationship with our patients in which they offer their trust and compliance, while we offer our full dedication to their benefit, unaffected by our desire for personal gain. Actually, we have a three way covenant relationship since our Lord is partnering with us in their care, increasing our concern for the good of the patient and adding the commitment that our care should point towards Him.

This covenant relationship should lead to at least three defining questions each time we present our patients with diagnostic or therapeutic options:

  • Which approach provides the greatest benefit for this patient, both toward his/her stated goals and toward my understanding of their best good?
  • Which approach harms my patient least economically?
  • Am I certain that my recommendations are not distorted by personal gain?

I have discovered in my own practice that when I fail to ask these questions, I will drift toward my natural desire for personal fulfillment, which may not be the best way to show God’s love for my patient.

Dr. Weir then offers this prayer, one that I prayed today:

Dear God, please let me always put the good of my patients first so that Your reflection from my life may not be distorted by the economics of their care. Amen.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag on the True Costs of the Healthcare Reform Bill

My friend, Congressman Doug Lamborn, sent me a just published report from the nonpartisan, independent actuaries at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Their analysis of the newly enacted Democrat health care overhaul has shocked people on both sides of the aisle. Among its many troubling findings, the report concludes that national health care costs will increase significantly over the next decade under the new law.

Here’s a short summary of the report’s key findings produced by the Minority staff of the House Ways and Means Committee:

  • Health Care Costs Increase:  “National health expenditures under the health reform act would increase by a total of $311 billion (0.9 percent) during calendar years 2010-2019.” [Page 4]  The actuaries found the law bends the cost curve up by a greater degree than either the House or Senate-passed legislation, despite the Administration’s claim that slowing national health spending was the “single most important” reason to overhaul the health system.
  • Over One-Half Trillion in Medicare Cuts: The Medicare actuaries found that the new health law cuts “$575 billion” [Page 4] from Medicare.
  • Seniors’ Access to Care Jeopardized: As a result of the cuts to Medicare, the actuaries found, “absent legislative intervention, [providers] might end their participation in the program [possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries].” [Page 10]
  • Workers & Seniors Can’t Keep the Health Plan They Have and Like: “We estimate that such actions would collectively reduce the number of people with employer-sponsored health coverage by about 14 million.” [Page 7]  Furthermore, 2 million Americans who currently have employer-provided health coverage will be dumped into Medicaid.  [Page 3]  Additionally, the actuaries predict millions of seniors will lose their Medicare plan because massive cuts to the program will result in “about 50 percent” of seniors no longer being in a plan. [Page 11].
  • Long Wait Lines Resulting From A Shortage of Doctors and Hospitals: “For now, we believe that consideration should be given to the potential consequences of a significant increase in demand for health care meeting a relatively fixed supply of health care providers and services.” In other words, Americans should be prepared for doctor and hospital shortages under the new law.  [Page 20]
  • False Promise to Those With Pre-Existing Conditions: “By 2011 and 2012 the initial $5 billion in Federal funding for [high risk pools] would be exhausted, resulting in substantial premium increases to sustain the program.” [Page 16]
  • Massive & Unworkable Entitlement Expansion: “First, an estimated 18 million would gain primary Medicaid coverage as a result of the expansion.” [Page 3]  In addition to burdening both federal and state budgets, the actuaries caution this expansion will fail to provide meaningful access to health care.  “Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that a significant portion of the increased demand for Medicaid would be difficult to meet, particularly over the first few years.” [Page 20]
  • Millions Will See Their Health Benefits Taxed for the First Time: “It should be noted, however, that an estimated 12 percent of insured workers in 2019 would be in employer plans with benefit values in excess of the thresholds [before changes to reduce benefits] and that this percentage would increase rapidly thereafter.” [Page 13]
  • Budget Gimmicks Revealed: President Obama’s actuaries found that the new government-run long-term care program that Democrats had touted as saving $72 billion dollars over the next ten years, will “face a significant risk of failure.” [Page 15]
  • New “Medicare Tax” Doesn’t Go To Medicare: “The Reconciliation Act amendments introduced a new 3.8-percent “unearned income Medicare contribution” on income from interest, dividends, annuities, and other non-earnings sources for individual taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 and couples filing joint returns with incomes above $250,000.  Despite the title of this tax, this provision is unrelated to Medicare; in particular, the revenues generated by the tax on unearned income are not allocated to the Medicare trust funds.” [Page 9]

Hopefully we will be able to replace those who voted for this monstrosity with those who are willing and committed to repealing this legislation and replacing it with reform that gives the American people more choices, more care, more caring, and not more government.