Physicians and Nurses Must Not Discriminate in Caring for Patients, Part II

Artistic Image of the Parable of the Good Samaritan

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the example of the Samaritan is still another reason for not discriminating against human beings who need medical treatment. In the parable, a man — probably of Jewish descent — traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, is robbed, beaten, wounded and left-for-dead (cf. Luke 10:30).

While the priest and Levite pass by the wounded man, a Samaritan comes to the aid of the man. The Samaritan, though, is not considered a member of God’s chosen people. Rather, he is regarded as an outcast, a half-breed (half Jewish and Assyrian), by the Jewish people. That is why Scripture says, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). They dislike each other.

Nevertheless, the Samaritan, who has no special reason for helping a Jew and almost every racial reason for despising him, is moved by compassion at the suffering of another human being and cares for him. The irony of the parable is that the Samaritan meets the needs of the wounded Jew, while the priest and Levite, who have the “true faith,” do not.

The Samaritan is a non-discriminatory example for all health care workers, such as doctors, nurses and the entire staff of a health care facility, because he, a stranger to the wounded man, takes care of him. For the Samaritan, in a moment of urgent need, it does not matter what the wounded man’s beliefs are, such as his creeds; nor does it matter that the man’s faith-community was different from the Samaritan’s, such as differences in religion; nor do ethnic differences, such as the differences between Jews and Samaritans, matter. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“If the Samaritan had considered the wounded man as a Jew first, he would not have stopped [to help him], for the Jews and the Samaritans had no dealings. He saw him as a human being first, who was a Jew only by accident….”1

In other words, matters of race and religion are secondary to a person’s humanity.

Today, unfortunately, for not a few people, differences in race and religion matter more than a person’s humanity. So, unlike the Samaritan, such people may lose sight of the fact that different humans are still human beings, persons. King writes,

“[W]e see people as entities or merely as things. Too seldom do we see people in their true humanness. A spiritual myopia limits our vision to external accidents. We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or American, Negroes or whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image.”2

From the Samaritan’s example, health care workers can learn that a human being — someone who is made in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) — must be cared for, regardless of his or her race, religion or any other political or social matter. Issues of race, religion, politics and economics, are, undeniably, important; but in urgent situations, such issues are always secondary to meeting the needs of a human being.


  1. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2010), pp. 24-25.
  2. Ibid., p. 24.

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