Military Medical Ethics – Scenario Database

Belief in reincarnation over life-saving measures?

ID/Number: 55
Last updated: 20 Nov, 2018
Revision: 2
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In the context of a predominantly Buddhist community, the medical team in a United Nations medical unit wants to fly a 4 year-old child by helicopter in order to save his life. The child is suffering from meningitis. The parents are local and accustomed to a traditional way of life. Nobody they know has either flown or been far away.

The local missionary healthcare provider, who is a nurse, has alarmed the parents about the possibility of permanent neurological damage.

The parents refuse the care offered by the medical team on the basis that reincarnation, as their fate, will be the result of the child's imminent death and is preferable to a life suffering from disabilities of which there are no provisions for. The doctors feel that the child's disabilities are not incompatible with life and it is not futile to continue treatment.

Source: Ahmad, Ayesha (2013): "Cultural Crises in Disaster Medicine".
In: Messelken, D./ H.U. Baer (ed.): Proceedings of the 2nd ICMM Workshop on Military Medical Ethics. Bern: ZEM, pp. 61-73.

Questions for the discussion of this scenario

1. How do you act, as a doctor, in this case?
2. How do you justify your decision to treat or not to treat?

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This scenario is also listed in the following categories
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Lack of knowledge and awareness in law, ethics, and intercultural differences -> Lack of knowledge/ awareness in intercultural differences
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Neutrality of the medical personnel