The 2015 Clearnote Pastors Conference, titled The Last Enemy, was held at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana from February 18-20, 2015. The following is a transcript of session 2, “Biblical ethics and euthanasia,” taught by the late Dr. Adam Spaetti on February 19, 2015. See also the transcripts of sessions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Thank you for that warm welcome, thank you for giving me your attention today.
Before we get started I’m going to pray one more time. Please bow your heads with me.
Father, we do thank You for bringing all of us together as brothers. I pray now, Lord, that You would make this time fruitful, I pray that you would cause me to decrease that you might increase. Please send your Spirit to work through my mouth to build these men up in their work. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
So as it is going to be like drinking from a firehose I debated whether or not to do slides, but I think you’re probably going to need them, because there’s a lot to cover today, so just hang on to your seat–we’re going to go over a lot of material.
As Jake said, I have been a hospitalist. Just a little bit about me: I went to the IU medical school; I’m a born and raised Hoosier, grew up in Evansville, Indiana; graduated from medical school in 2004; did my residency in St Vincent’s hospital in Indianapolis (which is really a top-notch internal medicine residency program, in terms of giving people the freedom to learn good medicine and also to learn to practice ethical medicine. The Catholics, I hate to tell you if you didn’t already know this, are still way ahead of the evangelicals when it comes to medical ethics. It won’t last–they’re eroding too–but for the time it was very good.) I finished up residency in 2007 and was board certified in internal medicine, which is basically primary care just for adults. So people ask me, do you do family practice? and the answer is kind of like, well, sort of–I don’t see kids, I don’t deliver babies, but it is more or less family practice for adults.
After I finished up training, for the first 7 years I worked at Premier Healthcare–I’m still there, but I worked as a hospitalist. Now a hospitalist position is a particular subset of internal medicine where all you do is take care of hospital patients. This came about about 20 years ago in the United States, and it’s pretty much universal across the country now. In the old days if you got sick and went to the hospital, your family doctor would come see you, either in the morning or on his lunch break or in the evening or maybe some combination of the above–but he had an office that he had to work in, and they found that it was very hard to be in two places at once. And so men just started specializing in hospital medicine. And there are good things about the system, there are bad things about the system; but what it meant for me was that I ended up taking care of a lot of people who died. They didn’t die because I took care of them, but it is part of the nature of the work. Everything from little old ladies with devastating strokes, to 19-year-old overdoses–pretty much anybody that walked in the door, I would be involved in their care, and that includes general inpatient problems that ended well–you know, treatment of pneumonia and things like that–as well as the ICU. Not all hospitalists do critical care work, but that was kind of the high point of my training at St. Vincent, and I did it here in Bloomington too and really loved it. I do enjoy critical care quite a bit.
So I was exposed to death and dying a lot through my work as a hospitalist. About five years ago, I also started doing nursing home work on the side. As a hospitalist I’d work a really long week and then I’d be off a week, and during my off week I would take care of nursing home patients. And as you can imagine, dying comes up quite a bit when you’re taking care of nursing home patients as well.
And then about six months ago I took over a primary care office for an elderly physician in town who got sick and needed help, and that’s what I’ve been doing primarily for the last six months, is getting used to office practice. But I still go to the hospital, and I still do my nursing home work. And so at least at this point, I’m one of these members of a dying breed in primary care who goes to all the different locations, and I’m hoping the Lord will make it possible for me to continue that, because I really do enjoy practicing in each of those settings.
So, that’s in a nutshell my exposure to death and dying. That’s how I ended up as a doctor getting invited to speak at a pastors’ conference. And I want to try to lay out for you a little bit what I see as the connection between what you do and what I do. Because what I do is not just medicine. The idea I think a lot of people have is that you’re good in science so you go into medicine–and once upon a time I was good in science, but that really hasn’t been the focus of what I do for many years. Yesterday was actually kind of a nice treat–I had a young girl in my office and I had a slow day, and she had some really weird, unusual symptoms, and I was able to just sit and research things on the computer and look up articles, and it was just like the old days, you know, when I got to be a nerd.
But for the most part, now what I do is manage people. Now what I do is I counsel, I teach, I admonish, I deal with a lot of emotional stress. I’ve never sat down and done the statistics, but if I see 16 people in a day, I would say probably at least 10-12 of them are on medication for depression and anxiety. And so our jobs, I think, are very similar. And that’s actually one of the things I like most about my job, is that there is a pastoral element to it. I could, you know, just do academic medicine and forgo all that–each doctor carves out his own niche–but this is the way I like to practice medicine. And so, in keeping with that, I also get to do similar work, as Jake said, as an elder of this church. And that has equipped me, more than I can ever describe, for the kinds of situations that I deal with in the office, in the hospital, in the nursing home, in working with people.
And so it’s a privilege for me to be here among pastors. I admire the work you do, and to the extent that God lets me participate in the work as well, I feel very excited and very blessed.
I also wanted to show you this picture, not just because my kids are beautiful–they are. Not just because I take great delight in them–I do. But also because I really feel like they’re as much a part of my credentials as my medical training. Nothing has prepared me for dealing with people–for leading people, for teaching people, for disciplining people–like having children. It’s the best training I have had; and so for you young guys in particular out there, my encouragement to you would be, have lots of children and just love them. Because there will be so many situations that come up in the course of being a father that translate into your fatherhood in the church.
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