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Paynesville Press - May 5, 2004

Author of faith-based ethics book speaks at LKAG

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Patients should be well informed about their options for medical treatment and should make medical decisions based on their own beliefs.

This advice was given by Dr. Jack Hanford, a Methodist minister and author of "Bioethics from a Faith Perspective," during a series of discussions held last week at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds.

Thanks to advancements in medical technology, life expectancies in this country have nearly doubled in the last 100 years, he added. In addition, most cancers are now treatable and many diseases that plagued the country a century ago are now wiped out.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with medical technology is knowing when to stop, Hanford added, pointing to recent right-to-die cases, including the Teri Schaivo case in Florida. In that case the courts ruled that Schaivo's husband had the right to allow the woman to die, but the rulings were overturned on behalf of the woman's parents by Florida governor Jeb Bush, who ordered feeding tubes reinserted.

Hanford doesn't aim to decide what is right or wrong. He lets the courts and the American Medical Association do that. In the Schaivo case, the court's decision should have been honored, he said.

If a procedure is approved by the courts and by the medical establishment, Hanford believes patients need to make decisions about medical care based on their own belief system.

The crux of medical ethics is informed consent. If patients have enough information - about their condition and about possible treatment options -Ęthey are able to make better ethical choices, according to Hanford.

With technology moving ahead at full speed and with doctors spending less and less time with patients, patients don't always have enough information to make good ethical choices when it comes to health care. Hanford hopes this will change.

Patients need to have a good relationship with their physicians, their pharmacists, and with other members of the health care team. Only then can can good, ethical decisions be made, said Hanford.

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