CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne
There is a long tradition of bioethical reasoning within the Roman Catholic faith, a tradition expressed in scripture, the writings of the Doctors of the Church, papal encyclical documents and reflections by contemporary Catholic theologians. Catholic bioethics is concerned with a broad range of issues, including social justice and the right to health care, the duty to preserve life and the limits of that duty, the ethics of human reproduction and end-of-life decisions.
Bioethics has focused on the areas of individual ethical choices -- patient care -- or public policy and law. There are however, important arenas for ethical choices that have been overlooked. Health care is populated with intermediate arenas such as hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and health care systems. This essay argues that bioethics needs to develop a language and concepts for institutional ethics. A first step in this direction is to think about institutional conscience.
This article provides an account of how AndrÈ Hellegers, founder and first Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, laid medicine open to bioethics. Helleger's approach to bioethics, as to morality generally and also to medicine and biomedical science, involved taking the "wider view" -- a value-filled vision that integrated and gave meaning to what otherwise was disparate, precarious, and conflicting.
Catholic hospitals seek to offer health care in accord with the example of Christ. They have several models to assist in this effort. The first model is the values portrayed in the Gospels. The Catholic Church has sought to embody these Gospel values in specific teachings. These teachings have been further specified for hospitals in the United States by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Ethical and Religious Directives. Finally, the Gospels values are also expressed for individual Catholic health care systems in mission statements and statements of Catholic identity.
This paper will examine the topic of identity in Roman Catholicism from the perspective of topics contained in or absent from mission statements of 25 Catholic health care institutions. In particular, I will look at these from the perspective of social justice as well as how this and other topics such as human dignity, sanctity of life, stewardship, pastoral care and the likelihood of mergers with other institutions will affect the healing ministry of Catholic health care providers.
Organizational ethics refers to the integration of values into decision making, policies, and behavior throughout the multi-disciplinary environment of a health care organization. Based upon Catholic social ethics, stewardship is at the heart of organizational ethics in health care in this sense: stewardship provides the hermeneutic filter that enables basic ethical principles to be realized practically, within the context of the Catholic theology of work, to concerns in health care.
Issues of institutional identity and integrity in Roman Catholic health care institutions have been addressed at the level of individual institutions as well as by organizations of Catholic health care providers and at various levels in the Church hierarchy. The papers by Carol Taylor, C.S.F.N., Thomas Shannon, Kevin O'Rourke, O.P., Gerard Magill in this volume provide a significant contribution to concerns of Roman Catholic health care institutions as they face the challenges of providing health care in a secular, pluralistic, market-driven economy.
Skene and Parker are demonstrably mistaken in suggesting that the amicus role of Catholic bishops in three cases has been concerned with "developing" the law. In contrast with Skene and Parker's freestanding conception of legal principle, the Catholic understanding of law's rational moral foundations has permitted Catholic bishops to defend longstanding legal principle as well as defending the integrity of the church's health care and welfare services.
Drawing chiefly on recent sources, in Part One I sketch an untraditional way of articulating what I claim to be central elements of traditional Catholic morality, treating it as based in virtues, focused on the recipients ("patients") of our attention and concern, and centered in certain person-to-person role-relationships. I show the limited and derivative places of "natural law," and therefore of sin, within that framework.
Physicians often appear more troubled by moral dilemmas than would seem justified given the present social and professional consensus on many of the questions involved. Their discomfort arises not only at ethical, technical, and behavioral levels (the most commonly identified sources of difficulty), but also at an existential level, that is, as the manifestation of conflicts rooted in the processes and conditions of our coming-to-be as persons.