Is It Ethical for Christians to Ration Health Care?

Is It Ethical for Christians to Ration Health Care?

Dr. Richard Land Explores This Controversial Question in Preparation for May Online Ethics Course at Southern Evangelical Seminary

April 7, 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Is it ever permissible to ration health care in a medical crisis? If so, under what moral circumstances should it be allowed?

Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, President and Evangelical leader Dr. Richard Land also serves as executive editor for The Christian Post and has a new Friday feature called “Ask Dr. Land.” He sought to answer this deep question in light of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to instill fear, tear through communities, isolate families and close church doors.

Delving into this controversial matter is also helping Land prepare for his one-week live streaming online Ethics class at Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he will explore with students how God gets people’s attention, how ethics are biblically based and much more. The livestreamed class is set for May 11-16. Learn more here or visit

“Unfortunately, it appears, that despite the best efforts of our elected leaders and the heroic efforts of the medical community, the coronavirus pandemic may very well create a tidal wave of seriously ill patients that will simply overwhelm the capacity of some local hospital facilities to adequately meet the needs of all the critically ill patients who seek treatment,” Land says. “If and when that happens, what are Christian doctors, nurses and hospital administrators to do? What does Christian morality allow them to do?”

Historically, in modern Western civilization when there is such a crisis and there is insufficient life-saving care available to treat all patients who are imperiled, a triage system is implemented, Land adds. Critically ill patients are assigned the highest priority, patients who do not have life threatening illnesses or injuries and thus can wait for medical treatment are in the second group.

“The third triage group,” he writes, “comprises those patients who are deemed to have sustained mortal injuries or their illnesses have progressed to the state where they have an almost certain probability of dying even if they were given the treatments that are given to group one. The patients in this group are the ones labeled ‘do not resuscitate’ because of their almost certain terminal status and are merely made as comfortable as possible until they expire. As Americans of whatever faith, we all pray that it does not come to that in any of our hospitals during the ‘Great Pandemic of 2020.’ But if and when this sad and lamentable state of affairs does eventuate in some of our hospitals, Americans in today’s culture are not at all prepared to react in the Christian way we would have earlier in our history.”

The most crucial question, he says, is “what are the criteria being used to make the decision to relegate some patients to the ‘do not treat’ category as opposed to receiving the urgent care they desperately need immediately?” Any evaluative criteria other than the individual medical condition of each patient must be rejected as prejudice and a denial of the innate dignity of each and every human being. Of course, no racial, ethnic or gender discrimination must ever be used to disqualify someone from treatment.

“Unfortunately,” Land continues, “because of the significant inroads of the nefarious and treacherously named ‘quality of life’ ethic in our culture, which argues that some lives aren’t worth saving as much as others, it would apply categories such as advanced age or mental or physical challenges in patients in any age group. Such thinking is starkly utilitarian, morally repugnant and the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which assigns equal and reverential value to each and every human life as made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Each of us, even in our fallen state, bares the indelible image of our divine Creator, which means each and every human being is different in kind, not merely degree, from the rest of creation and must be recognized and treated with sacred, reverential value. If the criteria used in triage take value points away from anyone purely based on their age or their lack of some cognitive or physical skills, then it is founded on a pagan value system and must be rejected with vigor and fought in court if necessary.”

Land notes that Pope John Paul II warned that “a culture of death” was loose in Western civilization and was running rampant in the academy and other places of culture influence. Where does such a repugnant “moral” ethic lead? Concerning a proposed California law legalizing assisted suicide five years ago, Los Angeles Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote the following: “Once we start down this path, once we establish in law that some lives are not as valuable as others … there will be no turning back. The logic of doctor assisted suicide does not stop with the terminally ill.”

“Unfortunately, Archbishop Gomez is absolutely right,” Land says. “Where such laws have been passed, the right to die all too quickly under societal pressure becomes an ‘obligation to die’ or a ‘duty to die.’”

Land used the example of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the “poster boy” for the so-called “quality of life” ethic’s morbid fascination with death.

“Dr. Emanuel,” Land writes, “President Obama’s health care advisor, a chief architect of Obamacare and its ‘death panels’ which rationed care, is also the most prominent member of former Vice President Joe Biden’s Health Care Advisory Team. Dr. Emanuel has stated in the Atlantic Magazine that he wants to die at age 75 (he is currently 62) and that we should all desire the same thing. He described the elderly as ‘feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.’ He has strongly advocated rationing health care to people simply as a function of their chronological age.

“This is serious business—deadly serious,” Land concludes. “We must strongly oppose the devaluing of the elderly and the mentally and physically challenged in this time of the ‘Great Pandemic of 2020.’ Otherwise, barbarism’s death culture will ever more rapaciously devalue human life like one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

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