Volume 6 Issue 2 - October 17, 2008
Mark CJ Lin
A Dialogue between Medicine and Life - Reverence of Life
Article Digest
Yun Chen
Synthesis, Photophysics and Electroluminescence of Copolyfluorenes Containing DCM Derivatives
Psang Dain Lin
An optoelectronic measurement system for measuring 6-DOF vibration motion
Yung-Ming Shiu
Ching Cheng
Ab initio studies of the possible magnetism by nonmagnetic defects in a BN sheet
Kuei-Sen Hsu
Repeated cocaine exposure impairs the induction of long-term depression in rat medial prefrontal cortex
Article Digest
Dar-Bin Shieh
In Vivo Optical Biopsy and Molecular Microtomography Imaging Using Nanoparticle Probes
News Release
Spanish CSIC Delegation Visited NCKU for Collaboration
Distinguished Professor Fan-Tien Cheng, NCKU, won the 2008 University Industry Economy Contribution Award –Industry Contribution Award (Individual Award) Established by the Ministry of Economic Affairs with the Automatic Virtual Metrology (AVM) System
Editorial Group
A Dialogue between Medicine and Life - Reverence of Life
Mark CJ Lin

Professor and Pediatric Orthopedics, Medical College, NCKU, Tainan, Taiwan

Fhe Albert Schweitzer Association of Taiwan invited Schweitzer’s granddaughter to Taiwan early this April. She gave some talks and played in a symphony orchestra. Low-key as they seemed, the ripples of her visit continues to inspire many young students in Taiwan to remember the spirit of Albert Schweitzer. Those students will be the new energy for the future to which the medical environment in Taiwan is transforming.

The core value of Schweitzer’s spirit is reverence of life. The media in Taiwan usually interprets it as “respect for life,” but it is not as close to its core value as “reverence for life.”

In the development of civilization, “respect” actually belongs to the highly refined stage. For example, if a man says, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it,” his listeners will definitely respect him for his “sportsmanship,” and such demeanor will certainly make our society as well as politics very harmonious and stable.

When it comes to life, mere respect is insufficient. We respect people and their opinion, but people can get ill and become unconscious and unable to judge. Then mere respect cannot reach the core value of life. For example, a man committed suicide after he left his will with complete despair, but he was found and sent to an emergency room. The paramedics should not leave him to die simply because they “respect” his wish to die.

That is where the more primitive core value, which should be on a higher priority than “respect,” comes in; that is “reverence of life.” As long as a life is in his hand, a doctor must not lose it until he has tried, because the patient under the aforementioned situation might have gone through some epiphany and changed his mind.

The dictionary definition of reverence is a feeling of great respect amid a certain degree of fear and passion, so it is proper to translate it as “respect and fear.” However, maybe some people misuse the word, or they are too respectful and fearful, so they think “reverence” is beyond the scope of daily social interaction and is more like a religious term. That usually leads people to the belief that “reverence of life” is the nirvana that is out of reach without religion.

In fact, everyone believes in something, whether it is religious or not. Take business for example. Some people believe in money, so they would “rather die than lose money” in order to make a profit. Contrarily, some believe in reputation, so they would “rather jeopardize their chance of making money than disgrace their name.” Consequently, “reverence of life,” for doctors, is like the “conscience, honor and dignity” in the vow that each doctor has made; it should not be broken. The difference is that the latter expect high of themselves, while the former prioritize their profits over the benefits of their patients.

We should show deep reverence for life, partly because life is disputably sacred. It is also the highest guideline for medical ethics. Generated from that guideline are four principles: principle of respects for autonomy, of beneficence, of justice and of non-maleficence. Those are the inevitable results of that guideline. Then, how do we choose when a principle and the guideline conflict? What should we do when a patient signed the DNR (Do No Resuscitation) agreement, but his family requests resuscitation when the patient is on the verge of dying? It is a dilemma without a standardized answer. It is clinical and is a sadistic choice for paramedics. When in that situation, there is no way for the doctor to get away with unless he can show true and deep reverence for the life that is sacred and irreplaceable.

Thus, in the process of legislation of medical ethics, every doctor should keep in mind that the mastery of the related laws and regulations of SOP does not exempt you from the complex reality. In fact, we must transcend the rules, elevate spirituality and contemplate the true meaning of “reverence of life.” That is the ruling principle of medical practice.

Translated by Edward Wang
Copyright National Cheng Kung University