Ethical Question

In hopes of generating more discussion that doesn’t invoke long-standing debates about the nature of faith and church membership, I’d like us to think through questions of moral behavior.

Should an LDS physician provide a blessing of healing to an LDS member whom s/he is treating?

Does it matter whether the patient is in critical condition and may soon die?
Does it matter whether the physician personally knows or is related to the LDS member?
Does it matter whether the physician personally believes either a) it is time for the patient to be allowed to pass rather than postpone dying, or b) despite family misgivings, heroic medical care should be provided?

In the interest of starting the discussion, a recent Exponent II essay mentioned plastic surgeons blessing their patients before breast augmentation surgery (a whole new can of worms, I agree), there is a longstanding quarrel between physicians and clergy about who belongs at the deathbed, and in general ethicists recommend that physicians be religiously neutral in dealing with their patients, even within the same community, in large part because of apparent or real conflicts of interest and the desire to minimize undue influence on the agency of patients and families.

Comments

  1. If the patient asks for it, yes. I’m surprised you didn’t bring this up.

  2. If it is between members, then it doesn’t matter if the person giving the blessing is also the physician. But Matt’s point is crucial. The patient must ask for it first.

  3. This is true for all blessings – the recipient should ask for it.

    If the patient’s family or friends are not available, then I think it’s very appropriate for the physician to fill in.

  4. Name (required) says:

    When I go to a doctor, I’m looking for medical attention. I want the doctor to use their medical knowledge to help me. If I wanted a blessing, I would have gone to my hometeacher/bishop/family member.

    If God is going to get involved, its just as easy for Him to bring me back to life as it would be to heal my medical condition. So what’s the rush to get a blessing? I’ll let people pray over me and bless me after I’m dead.

  5. Name, that is the great thing about blessings. If you don’t want one, you don’t have to get one. God won’t bless you against your will. Even in this you have free agency.

  6. I admit a lack of informed opinion regarding these questions. I have never had to deal with these issues first hand. However, all of these questions are addressed in:

    MacMurray, Val D., and Ventura, Kim, Decision Models in Bioethics

    and

    Wardle, Lynn D. Passive Euthanasia: A Three Dimensional View

    both found in Donald G. Hill Jr., ed. Perspectives in Mormon Ethics: Personal, Social, Legal and Medical (Salt Lake City, UT: Publishers Press, 1983), 253-315. (both articles)

  7. Name (required) says:

    Its not that I don’t want a blessing–I do want a blessing. Its just that I wouldn’t want a physician to delay medical care in an urgent situation in order to give me a blessing.

  8. Adam Greenwood says:

    If you wanted to avoid longstanding debates, I would have left off the “s/”.

    My daughter’s neurosurgeon did pray with us.

  9. Does it matter whether the physician personally believes either a) it is time for the patient to be allowed to pass rather than postpone dying

    Not all blessings are given to postpone dying, some are given to ease dying. I have personally given one of those blessing. It seemed to be effective and was a great comfort to the family.

    Given the choice, I would not choose a doctor who was religiously neutral over one worthy to give me a blessing. However, in a pinch, I agree with Name (now I know what s/he was talking about) I would not want a doctor to delay emergency care to give a blessing.

  10. There are real problems with doing this.

    Part of being a professional is remaining objective. You cannot serve your patient or your client (speaking as a lawyer here) adequately if you’ve allowed yourself to become emotionally wrapped-up in them. It breaks down the barriers that allow you to be objective about your client’s case. Now they aren’t just a client whose problems you are solving, they become a vested interest. You lose sight of the big picture and may make decisions based on what you want to have happen rather than what should happen.

    I had to deal with this a while back with a retired gentleman (facts changed to protect confidentiality) who was desperate to keep his home of 50 years out of foreclosure. He had raised his children there, he had friends in the neighborhood, it meant a lot to him.

    Unfortunately, he was well past the point where he could save the house by normal means. The only thing that could help him now was a repayment plan under Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He was gung-ho to try it.

    After reviewing his finances, it became painfully obvious that he couldn’t make the needed payments and still maintain a minimal standard of living.

    I was sympathetic, but rather blunt at the same time. I told him there was no chance – and recommended a Chapter 7 with the intent of giving up the house. After several discussions with me ruthlessly shooting down his protestations that he would “cut back” on groceries or “ask his doctor to arrange a reduced cost medication program” (he simply wasn’t thinking clearly), I managed to convince him that he simply couldn’t afford the house anymore.

    How would I have handled that differently if I was emotionally invested in his life? Would I have followed his intense emotional desires and put him into a Chapter 13 that would only have drained more of his assets and was doomed to failure in the small hope that he could keep this part of his life?

    My clients are not my friends. That must always be kept in mind, or it leads to all sorts of problems and nonsense.

  11. If I were in a hospital and unable to reach my Bishop or Home Teacher – or was concerned about having to wait for someone to reach the hospital – and I knew there was a worthy MP holder at the hospital, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a blessing – no matter who that person was. Of course, if it was critical that I get emergency treatment that moment, I would not want it postponed, but, otherwise, I would wait to receive the blessing prior to non-emergency care.

    I also have given blessings of both healing and comfort in dying – whatever is the will of the Lord. I would want anyone facing medical treatment to know the will of the Lord – but I have to admit I cringed when I read of blessings prior to elective plastic surgery, especially breast augmentation. Something about invoking a Priesthood blessing in that situation just strikes me as wrong.

  12. Seth,

    Since I am in the middle of a paper on lawyer influence on client’s chapter choice, let me just say that it sounds like you were far more of a friend in this case than many bankruptcy lawyers :).

  13. Seth, you make a good point, and I agree that in the ideal world someone other than the attending doctor should bless a patient. However, in the case of medical treatment and a blessing, if the attending doctor is the only MP holder available, I certainly would hope the patient could receive the blessing s/he wants even if it had to be performed by the attending physician.

    This is another example of an issue that changes when you leave areas where a lack of available priesthood is an issue. I just can’t imagine my first paragraph being written concerning a hospital in Utah.

  14. Adam Greenwood says:

    Also, our bishop, who was our daughter’s respiratory tech, helped us give her a blessing when she first collapsed.

  15. Nick Literski says:

    I have to admit I cringed when I read of blessings prior to elective plastic surgery, especially breast augmentation. Something about invoking a Priesthood blessing in that situation just strikes me as wrong.

    Of course, if we are engaged in any endeavor which makes us feel uncomfortable seeking the assistance of deity, we’re probably doing the wrong thing in the first place.

  16. My children’s pediatrician is a former ward member and now the Bishop of our old ward. I’m sure if an immediate blessing were required, he would assist. Although, I have always had family or other resources available to assist with blessing family members.

  17. Julie in Austin says:

    “a recent Exponent II essay mentioned plastic surgeons blessing their patients before breast augmentation surgery”

    The most appropriate blessing in that situation would invoke a desire to be less self-centered, more charitable, and less influenced by popular culture.

  18. mondo cool says:

    These questions may be asking for absolutes when it really depends upon the circumstances. If a patient had plenty of opportunity to get a blessing before the medical intervention, I would be inclined to defer but see what other options are available – especially if the situation was not life threatening.

    And, in response to #7, I really find it hard to imagine a medical professional (LDS or not) “unduly” waiting for a blessing to render treatment. (Out of respect, the treatment team may wait if they interrupt in the middle of the blessing. But, not if the outcome could be different.) Also, even in the most urgent situations, there is almost always a window of opportunity to give a blessing – waiting for x-ray or lab to arrive, etc.

    And, in response to Seth R. (#11), yes there may be a problem in some situations. But, I’ve seen a few emergent instances where the absence of emotional involvement would have meant the death of the individual. Thankfully, the treating team kept trying when stoicism would have meant much different results. I do agree that I would rather have the treating physician forego the blessing in favor of medical intervention rather than forego medical intervention in favor of a blessing. But, I don’t see, categorically, that he can’t do both.

  19. The blessing, the medical care, or both would be comprimised by allowing the attending physician to perform a blessing on the patient. I don’t want my doctor treating me based off something he heard in a blessing whether he voiced it or not. I want my doctor to treat me based on his education and experience. I’d rather pray with a catholic priest, protestant minister or perhaps the night custodian than receive a blessing from an LDS doctor if he was treating me.

  20. See? This is why I have a nice Jewish doctor.

  21. Kyle, I guess we have to agree to disagree on this one. If I had a chance to receive a blessing and the only option was my attending physician, I would ask for it in a heartbeat.

  22. Anon-a-doc says:

    In medical school and residency I refused to give blessings to anyone to whom I was directly involved with care. To give a blessing immediately puts you in a bind by having to play two rolls. There are reasons why doctors should not treat themselves or their families, the reasons for doctors not giving blessings are similar(including risk of loss of objectivity and judgment, possibility of not asking probing or uncomfortable questions, having an increased emotional stake in care…).
    Blessings are emotional events are they not. Anytime you increase your emotions around a case, you potentially loose objectivity. No patient should want loss of objectivity in their caregivers.

  23. Ditto what #23 said. Except the part about being a doctor and medical school.

  24. Not trying to be funny here, but what kind of legal ramifications could a physician open himself up to if he treats & blesses the patient, and neither service helps? If he/she treats them, but is prompted to say something neutral in the blessing, not definitely “be healed,” could the patient (and don’t put it past some of the nutballs in the flock) sue for counteracting the procedure? All compassion aside, I’d be afraid such a move could haunt me down the road.

  25. Couldn’t the patient also sue for using methods of treatment which are not proven and malpractice? A situation like this begs for problems.

  26. Adam Greenwood says:

    I’m not sure why feeling some affection or spiritual connection with a patient is a bad thing. Is my doctor going to sew up a tool inside me because he likes me?

  27. Many years ago my husband woke up at about 2 am with a skull ripping migraine, but we had no idea what it was (no history)and we raced to the hospital.

    He was in so much agony by the time we reached the emergency room that any sound or light at all caused him great distress.The ER tech gave him something to calm him down and ordered scans etc and while we waited for the tests to be done, we had a hushed conversation about calling our bishop etc to come and give a blessing. The tech overheard us and politely said “I am an LDS elder and so is the Attending if you can’t reach your bishop or want a blessing sooner” and then he left the room.

    We discussed what my husband wanted to do, and in his mind, it is the power of God that matters, not who administrates it, and it was God’s comfort, influence, and wisdom that my husband and I desired. If there were two priesthood holders on the premises, it wasn’t necessary to call our bishop or home teachers from their beds on a cold winter’s night, so we thanked the tech for his offer and he and the attending physician performed a blessing.

    These two men didn’t suddenly become our “friends”,and we felt that having God’s influence during any following procedures would be a bonus, not a compromise of them. The influence of the Holy Ghost would only enhance the abilities of the doctors-and perhaps even offer alternative solutions that would work better than standard methods. Who knows? Maybe it would even influence the doctors to avoid costly tests that didn’t apply to his treatment in the end? I guess I would just rather put the whole thing in the hands of God than think that a doctor’s education and experience, no matter how extensive, is somehow greater.

  28. Adam, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t care about your clients.

    I actually like most of my clients.

    But I’m not their friend. They can get friends somewhere else. When they come to me, they need a lawyer.

    Doctors who feel the pain of their patients are utterly worthless in surgery work. There’s a lot of detail to keep track of in a surgery. The whole thing goes much more smoothly if the doctor is able to behave as if he was working on a chunk of meat.

    The warning is against getting too emotionally committed to those you are serving. Not about becoming some uncaring robot.

  29. Last year I had an emergency c-section at a hospital in Utah. My physicians are both LDS and I’m pretty sure most of the other people there were too. To be honest, it never crossed my mind to even ask anyone for a blessing. My husband and I were both praying in our minds the whole time, but I don’t think I received a blessing at any point during my hospitalization. I think that says more about the fact that we both grew up in homes without the priesthood and honestly don’t think about blessings very often. If one of my physicians had offered to give a blessing, I’m not sure I would have accepted. It’s not like I knew either of them really well, and I would have rather had them spend their time on getting the baby out. I guess I just feel like in an emergency situation the Lord will accept a prayer of the heart just as equally as a blessing.

  30. S.P. Bailey says:

    Does giving a blessing truly destroy objectivity? I am surprised that so many consider blessing-giving “emotional” and “personal.” I would use different words to describe it: solemn, sacred, spiritual, etc.

    As far as professional liability goes, the safest course is for physicians to avoid giving blessings to patients. A plaintiff’s attorney could spin the act of giving a blessing in numerous unfortunate ways: (1) look what this hack was doing instead of x, y, and z interventions that been proven effective!, (2) doctor, is it true that you informed your patient that she was not long for this world based on what you call a spiritual prompting? Did you have any medical basis for that conclusion? Did that prompting affect your standard of care? (How will this sound to a jury sans Mormons?), (3) etc., etc.

    Hopefully, in most cases family, friends, home teachers, the missionaries, anybody else will be available. For a while on my mission, my companionship was listed at the local hospitals as the emergency contact for when Mormon patients asked for blessings. We gave some blessings to patients in serious medical trouble.

  31. I tend to agree with the arguments that concern legal risk to the DR. A plaintiffs attorney could make a compelling case against the DR. if something goes wrong during the surgery. Jurors would start thinking the DR is a quack etc. I can also imagine a complaint to the state medical board possibly as well.

    One of my DR buddies treats badly injured patients regularly. He tells me that families commonly ask him to pray with them prior to tough surgeries. (We live in the bible belt, they would probably faint if they knew he was LDS). I think this is different then an actual blessing though.

  32. The question bbell is,

    If an LDS doctor knowingly treats a born-again patient without the patient’s knowledge and consent of the doctor’s damned status, does it count as battery in a court of law?

  33. StillConfused says:

    Actually, I would give this one a thumbs down. There is a level of professionalism and structure when dealing with licensed professionals (doctors, lawyers and the like) and I would not think this would be appropriate in that regard. Hopefully there is someone else nearby who could serve that purpose. If he really were the only one around, then maybe.

  34. Fwiw, discussing this for ANY application other than the doctor being the only option is a straw man, imo. The real question, in my mind, is explicitly what a doctor should do if he really is the only option AND if the patient knows he holds the Priesthood and directly requests a blessing. Any other scenario is a no-brainer.

    Frankly, this is one area where I am completely and totally conservative, orthodox Mormon. I simply have seen too many cases of miraculous healings through the power of Priesthood blessings (as well as incredible comfort given to those who simply cannot be healed) to say that the possibility of such a healing should not be allowed if there is a worthy Priesthood holder available to speak the will of the Lord and possibly heal someone who will not be healed otherwise – or give the patients the type of peace and comfort they crave even without a promise of healing.

  35. This is a sincere question asked out of ignorance: Is a doctor allowed to prescribe a placebo of any kind if the patient is convinced that a pill is necessary and actually works – if it can be shown that taking the placebo “does no harm” and actually helps?

  36. Ray, when you put those parameters on it, I’d have to agree. And if I were the physician, for that moment I’d take down the shingle and be the Lord’s instrument. Not that the thought of a malpractice suit wouldn’t completely escape my mind, especially if family members were looking on. Really, you never know. That said, I’d have no choice– my primary purpose on the planet is to exercise the Priesthood, and let the chips fall where they may.

  37. Sorry, that’s “Not that the thought of a malpractice suit would completey escape my mind.”

  38. Fascinating to see the different perspectives on this. For most physicians, I think the answer is that this represents a conflict of interest and a failure to separate roles that are, in our society, necessarily separate. Interesting to consider whether there are societies within the modern West where the separation might be less distinct.

    I think Ray’s posing of the question is relevant, as anything less than a patient strongly desiring a blessing in the absence of another priesthood holder able to meet a patient’s spiritual needs in a setting that would not postpone necessary medical care is ethically quite shakey.

    What about surgeons who pray before their surgeries? I recall stories that Elder Nelson prayed before beginning his cardiac surgeries. Is this a different situation? Would it be comforting to know that your surgeon prayers before performing surgery?

  39. #36 it is a dogma of medical ethics that intentional administration of placebo is unethical. How the homeopaths manage to make it in the world is a bit of an ethical mystery.

  40. I personally do not find the doctor-as-stranger theme entirely compelling, even though it is a potent strategy to avoid burnout. I find that patients are quite touched when they are recognized as other than a piece of meat, and the depersonalized physician may be unable to consider a patient’s preferences adequately. Studies suggest that patients actually prefer empathy and humanization to skill when it comes to concrete situations (although most people assume a basic level of competence among physicians).

    At times it is affection for a patient that keeps the doctor up at night thinking through the best solution to a diagnostic or therapeutic puzzle.

  41. Thanks, Sam, for the answer to #36. I thought that would be so, but I wasn’t sure.

    I see the issue being discussed as having two sides: 1) those who don’t believe in the potential for miraculous and intervening healing and who would see blessings as spiritual placebos and 2) those who believe in the possibility and must decide how to balance the possibility and the accepted constraints of the secular profession – or whether to try to balance them at all.

    I think that has to be an individual decision, and it’s not mine to make.

  42. I’ve been surprised not to hear people make explicit the complexity for patients, who may hear their doctor’s opinion phrased in the form of a personal revelation. That is what makes me most reluctant to endorse blessings by healthcare providers on ethical grounds. Even for those who believe in the efficacy of blessings for healing, there is always the possibility that the speaker has filtered the revelation of God’s will in a way that affected its interpretation.

    Incidentally, our hemming and hawing and ethical restraint would have been entirely alien to early Latter Day Saints, who had the strange (by our terms) position of having faith healings that were more effective than cutting edge medical technologies.

  43. Sam, it’s not just the early Saints who would be astounded. There is a member in my brother’s ward in Utah who is from South America. He has expressed amazement at how few blessings are given in what he has seen of the US – and especially how vague so many of them are.

    He told my brother, essentially, “When you don’t have access to all kinds of medicines and hospitals and doctor care, when your life and health depend on actual blessings that come from Priesthood administration, you don’t have the luxury of giving and receiving vague blessings – rushed without fasting and prayer. You learn to fast sincerely, pray fervently and heal.”

  44. Also, I believe our intellectualization-saturated society has serious consequences for our general understanding and acceptance of the power of the Priesthood, in general. I believe in it not because I can “understand” it (I can’t.), but because I have seen and felt and experienced it. I won’t share specifics, but I have seen first-hand lives saved, elements abated and literally redirected, and other obvious “miracles” that simply can’t be explained without invoking divine assistance in some manner. In the area of “faith healings,” as a society we are so conditioned to “believe in” our modern medicine and medical practices and knowledge that we often lose some of the motivation and “need” to believe in healing by faith – and the desire and motivation and need are foundation conditions of the miraculous.

  45. Hmmm. I read every comment on this matter, not really comfortable with the “emotional detachment” answer about doctors and the other opinions about keeping faith and profession separate, et al.

    Then I asked myself, “If a student had asked me for a blessing when I was teaching, how would I have felt?” (The question of women giving blessings aside.) And I answered myself: “I would have said, “No.” I might have offered to pray for the student (since we’re talking BYU here, after all), but I think I would not have prayed with the student, and certainly would not have given a blessing. I was never exactly an emotionally detached teacher, but I always felt the importance of a professional attitude, and while friendly, I didn’t consider myself the student’s friend. (Occasionally, a student and I became friends much later, under different circumstances.)

    So thank you all for your responses; I learned from them.

  46. I tend to agree with Ray, but I worry about the legal ramifications for the doctor’s sake.

    Not that this is directly related, but…. I was at a Distribution Center when a man holding an infant fell to the floor in a seizure. I was astonished that no one offered to perform a blessing for either one. When I mentioned the possibility to one of the workers, though, I could tell that they felt torn by the possible legal risks while being in a professional role (even with something as simple as retail services). So to me, while my heart would say, “Give the blessing!” my head hesitates given the restrictions that govern our lives in a fallen system of laws, ethical standards and professionalism. If there was no other option, and the doc was willing to take that risk, I would support it. My hesitation is mostly for the doctor’s sake.

  47. I don’t think that doctors giving their boob-job patients blessings bothers me because it’s a boob job, so much as it sounds like it just goes with the whole package deal that you get with a surgery with that doctor. That means that the patient is giving the doctor money, and at least part of what they are getting in exchange is a blessing. That is priestcraft and one of the worst violations of the sanctity of the priesthood that I can imagine.

    To a lesser extent, any LDS doctor who nurtures an LDS clientele in a way that in any way implies that their services could include the ability to give a blessing should the need arise, could be guilty of this in a smaller degree.

    To get back to politics :-), this is what appalled me about people voting for Bush because (supposedly!) he talks to God all the time. Bush was supposed to be the ULTIMATE 2-for-1 deal, you get Bush and The Big Guy. Selling your priesthood, or relationship with God in any form, as a product, in exchange for money, is the ultimate “taking His name in vain” and an appalling, appalling violation of sacredness.

    This is something that we as a people would do well to consider in the contexts where it comes up for us.

  48. 48 is a wonderful reminder about moneychangers in the temple and the blight of many business and investment practices in the Mormon Corridor.

    One curiosity in Mormon blessings for healing is that it’s a two-step process, an anointing and a sealing, and the anointing itself doesn’t proclaim anything except a shared religious identity and a desire to help. Such may be a compromise position to mediate desires to share with other Saints while respecting ethical mandates.

  49. Maybe this is why I always prefer women doctors.

  50. I’m not going there, Kyle. It’s too easy. *grin*

  51. What ever happened to being led by the Spirit? If the patient asks, the physician feels ok about it, why not have a blessing? The physician can certainly demur if he feels so inclined. I don’t feel it is appropriate for the physician on his own to offer a blessing, that does kind of smack of priestcraft.

    Of course, being led by the Spirit, presupposes that we are living such a life that we are entitled to that kind of guidance. Sometimes it’s just easier to check in with the crowd on the bloggernacle. (Just a joke, folks!)

  52. This is a facinating discussion and I wonder if it is more relevant where the majority of citizens are church members – probably not. Bare with me while I share a somewhat related anecdote. Several years ago there was a tragic, yet courageous and uplifting situation in our ward. A young mother of three, who was pregnant at the time was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors weren’t sure whether she would live for the full term of the pregnancy. They suggested that an abortion would give her another few months to live. The couple decided to focus all of their attention on saving the baby. Our bishop gave her a blessing and promised her that she would see her baby born alive. Her doctor, who was not a church member, was present in the room when the bishop blessed her.

    In the end she only lived 41 days beyond the date of her diagnosis. The doctors decided that in order to save the baby they would have to take it early because she would not live another day. In the delivery room the young mother was holding on to life as they removed the baby from her womb. The doctor, remembering the blessing, said to her, “Open your eyes and see your baby boy.” As she opened her eyes the bishops blessing was fulfilled. The mother died within the next hour and after heroic efforts to save his life, the baby died a day later. They were buried together in the same casket.

    I wonder if the doctor’s actions in this case could be questioned. Some could claim that his desire to help carry out a priesthood blessing may have tainted his decision making. I think he did the right thing.

  53. This may be a bit of a thread-jack, but I have a similar situation where it is difficult to divorce my professional responsibilities from my Priesthood responsibilities and where they overlap a little. I am currently a Bishop as well as a safety manager over employees at work. One of my ward members is also one of the employees whom I oversee. Recently, this brother’s wife was baptized. She received the discussions in our home. Her husband was very supportive of her decision to be baptized and all seemed well. Unfortunately, shortly after the baptism the marital problems that they kept hidden from me surfaced with a vengeance. For a while I offered counseling as their Bishop but this brother/employee has since stopped coming to church but his wife continues to attend. I am finding it difficult to fill both roles (Bishop and employer). This leads to some awkward situations at work.

    I can empathize with the ethical dilemma that could be faced by a Priesthood-holding physician. I don’t think there is any easy, one-size-fits-all, answer here.

  54. Thanks, #54, these are tricky areas, and your comment is not a threadjack. I suggest exercising caution in mentioning identifiable situations on the web, as they are part of public discourse and have anonymized your name for the post.

  55. Thanks for that, Sam. I am new to both situations (Bishop and blogging). Thanks for looking out for me.

  56. All good comments, though the situation itself is unlikely to come up outside of Utah, except in those situations where the patient has knowingly chosen an LDS physician. Others have already stated my own feelings: I would do it only in a situation where for whatever reason I could not get family or ward members to do it.

    As per some of Seth’s comments (#11, etc.) — but from the client/patient/customer side — I have long made it a practice not to retain the services of a doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant, etc., whom I know on a personal level (family member, friend or ward member). Why? Because (as I have found) things get very awkward if you are unhappy with the services being provided. It’s not that I mind being friendly with my professional service providers — it’s that I want the freedom to criticize or drop them without repercussions in my personal life or at church. I also don’t particularly want family/friends/ward members (outside of the bishop and possibly my home teachers) knowing intimate details of my health, finances, or legal matters.

    Finally, as per #10 (blessings to ease dying), Sandra and I lived in the District of Columbia Branch (later Chevy Chase Ward) for six years. During the first few years we were there, a large percentage of the ward were elderly members. Our high priest group leader at that time, one of the sweetest and finest men I’ve ever known, spent much of his time giving blessings to those members. He noted once wryly that most of his blessings were ‘releases’ rather than ‘healings’, and it showed — we had quite a few funerals of branch/ward members during those years. ..bruce..

  57. My obstetrician assisted in a blessing while I was delivering my youngest child (doc anointed, husband acted as voice). I labor hard and quickly and didn’t want to wait while another priesthood holder was paged. All parties were comfortable with the arrangement (I’d been a patient for nine years).

    So I’d say sometimes it’s appropriate, sometimes not. I’m not comfortable with the word “should” in this question.

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