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ss triple helix - spring 2003,  The Saline Solution - Sharing Christ in a Busy Practice (Book Review)

The Saline Solution - Sharing Christ in a Busy Practice (Book Review)

The Saline Solution - Sharing Christ in a Busy Practice - Small Group Video Curriculum - Christian Medical & Dental Society, P O Box 7500, Bristol, TN 37621- 7500 USA - A Paul Tournier Institute Video Release 1999. $99.95

Christian doctors often face a challenge and dilemma. We know that we have been called by God to be witnesses to Jesus. We work with patients who often have anxieties and spiritual needs as well as physical illness. We would like to address these needs but feel uncertain about what to do. Is it ethical to talk to vulnerable patients about faith? Are we only in medicine for the patient's medical care or has God given us other responsibilities?

The Saline Solution is a practical training programme that addresses these questions and enables doctors to become witnesses to Jesus in the workplace. The course promises that doctors will learn to discuss spiritual matters with their patients in a way that is comfortable for both parties. The course teaches how to take a spiritual history, how to write a 'spiritual prescription' and how to develop a 'spiritual-consult network'. The Saline Solution was devised by Walter Larimore and William Peel for the Christian Medical and Dental Society in the USA. The course material consists of a written Participant's Guide together with videotaped presentations. The programme is divided into ten sessions that can be followed as a weekend retreat or as ten separate meetings. Each session contains video segments, a case study, group discussion and prayer time. It is envisaged that this material could be covered in about 90 minutes. The most effective way to use the course is to participate in a group with other learners.

The Participant's Guide is an impressive publication. As well as steering people effectively through the course, it is packed with well researched essays on such issues as 'The Faith Factor in Health - what does the research show?' The ethics of evangelism in the doctor-patient relationship is tackled thoughtfully. Practical skills are taught in a way that is easy to retain, for example, the questions involved in taking a spiritual history are encapsulated in the mnemonic SPIRIT. The videotaped material is produced professionally. There are presentations from the course authors and testimonies from participants on the course. Professional actors are used to portray doctors in different settings, highlighting issues for discussion and consideration by the course participants.

Overall, this is an excellent course that should really help Christian doctors to integrate their faith with their medical work. The only drawback is that the material is written and presented in the context of American culture. This means that some of the written material is less relevant to British medicine, for example one session is devoted to 'office environment', which might be difficult to change into an NHS hospital outpatient clinic. Sometimes the style of the videos is reminiscent of American news programmes, which British participants might find less accessible. I would certainly commend the course, but feel in time that we need an Anglicised version.

Reviewed by
Chris Summerton

Consultant Gastroenterologist in Manchester

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