Essays on Ethics and Healing

Medical journal articles by Donivan Bessinger



Clinical Articles



Medical Practice and Philosophy


Review of a number of articles dealing with issues in medical ethics reveals a lack of consensus regarding a governing ethical principle. Examination of several current ethical issues in the light of Dr. Albert Schweitzer's reverence for life suggests its wide applicability as an ethic to which questions may be referred, and against which proposed solutions may be tested.

A case analysis.

To understand fully a physician's role in society, and to deal successfully with the current sense of crisis, the medical profession must evolve a worldview that appropriately relates a physician to the patient, to the practice environment, to the base of knowledge, and to the physician's own sense of self. Such a worldview would be multilevel and interdisciplinary, and would be based on interactions and adaptations of physicians in life systems. Medicine's worldview must provide a philosophic milieu interieur that leads to a proper equilibrium between medicine's technologic skills and its humanistic concerns.

The life-systems model of ethics can be especially helpful in recognizing and solving the complex interdisciplinary problems that we face in society today. Our recent trend has been first to create technology, and then to do ethical studies retrospectively, after problems are created. If we see our technology and all of our work as an integral part of the natural life system, we may be able to maintain the ethical equilibrium as we go.

Adopting a life-systems perspective and an ethics based on the good of systems homeostasis opens up new levels of analysis and argument as we deal with the complex questions facing the medical community today. An ethics based on our science of life systems is satisfactory philosophically in that it corresponds to our understanding of biological "truth" and clinically in that it is understandable and communicable in physiological terms.

The health care system is a level of the larger social system, within which it must seek and find its equilibrium. This organic concept leads to a more realistic assessment of needs and goals, and can make a significant contribution in helping reshape national health policy. It also suggests a re- examination of a two-tiered approach to health benefits: a universally available level of care deemed essential for meeting social needs, and an optional coverage level directed toward meeting those individual life goals which may exceed social needs.

What is missing, and what we would do well to reclaim for mainstream medicine, is that quality called "soul." To reclaim it could profoundly influence our understanding of ourselves as healers, our approach to patient care, and patients' attitudes toward our work. A medical philosophy which is germane to our current problems would foster integration of bioethics, humanities, general knowledge, depth psychology, and spirituality as they relate to patient experience. By being sensitive to the "soul" issues of patients, we improve our ability to "evoke the placebo response" and to reduce patient interest in unconventional therapies.

Whereas orthodox medical research adheres to a linear, deterministic physical model, alternative therapists typically postulate that indeterminate nonphysical and nonlinear relationships are significant to outcome and patient satisfaction. The concept of nonlocal reality as nuocontinuum helps resolve the differences in therapeutic approach, and lets us frame a worldview that recognizes the great value of both reductive science and wholistic integration. It helps distinguish the levels of description appropriate to the discussion of each, and helps in examining the relationships among consciousness, nonlocal reality, and healing.

·      Medical Spirituality: Defining Domains and Boundaries. (with Trey Kuhne, MDiv, PhD). Southern Medical Journal, 2002 (Dec); 95:1385-1388  

The rapidly accumulating evidence that personal spirituality has important influences on healthcare outcomes is somewhat difficult to integrate into daily medical practice, in part because accepting it requires adjustments to the standard biomedical worldview, and in part because it challenges established boundaries between chaplaincy and evidence-based medicine. We propose that recognition of medical spirituality as a distinct interdisciplinary field of interest, with its own well-developed body of clinical evidence, clinical skill, clinical ethics, and with well-defined clinical boundaries, can help overcome much of the current confusion about how to integrate the new knowledge, and help preempt developing "turf issues." The new field would also contribute significantly to re-framing the worldview of healing practice, consistent with the evidence-based approach.


·      Pulsed-nonlocality: Towards a unification of  approaches to consciousness. [pdf] University of Arizona, Tucson: Proceedings of the Quantum Mind 2003 Conference (abstract; poster presentation), March 15-19, 2003.

Certain quantum theory concepts, especially nonlocality, probability, and entanglement with consciousness, mean that we cannot be satisfied with a theory of consciousness until we achieve a satisfactory theory of reality.  Current approaches to a final theory of cosmos focus on the nature of the smallest objects in space.  However, a theory of whole-cosmos Energy nonlocally pulsed (quantized and renormalized) in Planck time intervals, when taken in concert with quantum mind theory, yields a unification of physics and consciousness which intuitively describes physicality as we know it, and can account for anomalous nonlocal effects in psyche seen in various types of studies. Such a model points to consciousness as a reading of cosmic integration in nonlocality, providing a screen on which content is projected by processes at ordinary (local) neurological scale. Yet, since consciousness would be one aspect of the state of cosmos being integrated at each pulse, it could (if only weakly) influence the probability wave equation for the next pulse. Having such a common working model would provide appropriate mapping of evidence to its proper level of description, would show where the gaps are, and would affirm the importance of all disciplines as work proceeds toward a final theory.

·      Verse, Universe.  Text of a PowerPoint presentation at a concurrent session, Toward a Science of Consciousness conference, Stockholm,  1-8 May 2011.

It is from within consciousness that we seek a science of consciousness;    states of mind inevitably set the context of theory-making;    there seems to be no practical distinction between (subjective) consciousness and meaning (for at the moment of awaking I begin to interpret). Further, nonlocality, the infinities involved in quantum theory, and the quantum connection to consciousness all seem to suggest that the answer to Reality (Ultimate Nature) lurks beyond the reach of literal physical description (and certainly beyond literal religious formulation). Verse-writing, in the symbolic language of psyche, can evoke multiple layers of meaning. It can help break down resistances to nonlinear (and often highly speculative) approaches, and help promote understanding by the general public of new findings. The presentation will include verse samples from the author’s Verse, Universe (2011) to stimulate discussion of these claims.



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