Health and Human Flourishing

Health and Human Flourishing: Religion, Medicine, and Moral Anthropology

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Health and Human Flourishing
    Book Description:

    What, exactly, does it mean to be human? It is an age-old question, one for which theology, philosophy, science, and medicine have all provided different answers. But though a unified response to the question can no longer be taken for granted, how we answer it frames the wide range of different norms, principles, values, and intuitions that characterize today's bioethical discussions. If we don't know what it means to be human, how can we judge whether biomedical sciences threaten or enhance our humanity? This fundamental question, however, receives little attention in the study of bioethics. In a field consumed with the promises and perils of new medical discoveries, emerging technologies, and unprecedented social change, current conversations about bioethics focus primarily on questions of harm and benefit, patient autonomy, and equality of health care distribution. Prevailing models of medical ethics emphasize human capacity for self-control and self-determination, rarely considering such inescapable dimensions of the human condition as disability, loss, and suffering, community and dignity, all of which make it difficult for us to be truly independent. In Health and Human Flourishing, contributors from a wide range of disciplines mine the intersection of the secular and the religious, the medical and the moral, to unearth the ethical and clinical implications of these facets of human existence. Their aim is a richer bioethics, one that takes into account the roles of vulnerability, dignity, integrity, and relationality in human affliction as well as human thriving. Including an examination of how a theological anthropology-a theological understanding of what it means to be a human being-can help us better understand health care, social policy, and science, this thought-provoking anthology will inspire much-needed conversation among philosophers, theologians, and health care professionals.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-336-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)

    The Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University is a university-based ethics resource for those who shape and give health care. Its mission reads:

    Committed to the dynamic interplay between theory and practice, experience and reflection, Center scholars bring expertise in theology, philosophy, basic science and clinical practice to today’s ethical challenges. We seek to promote serious ethical reflection and discourse in pursuit of a just society and health care that affirms the dignity and social nature of all persons.

    This volume is the outcome of just such serious, and interdisciplinary, ethical reflection and discourse. As our faculty grappled with...

    (pp. 1-10)
    Roberto Dell’Oro

    Since its birth, bioethics has been concerned with questions of meaning pertaining to health, suffering, and death, and with ethical judgment on the direction undertaken by the life sciences in their advances, especially over the last decades. This book offers a singular contribution to the interplay of religion, medicine, and moral anthropology in the field of bioethics as it struggles to articulate the conditions that define human flourishing in the age of science and technology.

    This task calls for preliminary clarifications. In particular the engagement of medicine with religion and moral anthropology betrays an understanding of bioethics that pushes the...

    • CHAPTER 1 Theological Anthropology and Bioethics
      (pp. 13-32)
      Roberto Dell’Oro

      This chapter provides a general framework for understanding the contribution of theological anthropology to bioethics. The underlying presumption is that a theological contribution, in bioethics or any other field, requires of the theologian a personal commitment to a particular faith tradition—Roman Catholic in my case—but also openness to the conditions of universal moral communication beyond the limits of one’s specific theological affiliation.

      Traditionally, the scientific articulation of moral theology has reflected a twofold concern: one for the internal coherence of the theological system, the other for the integration of new philosophical perspectives, in critical dialogue with both culture...

    • CHAPTER 2 Vulnerability, Agency, and Human Flourishing
      (pp. 33-52)
      Alisa L. Carse

      Vulnerability is an endemic feature of human life. In this respect we are not, at one level, distinctive. Like inanimate objects or artifacts, plants, and nonhuman animals, we can be worn down, broken, lost, or forgotten. Like all living things, both sentient and nonsentient—trees, bees, flowers, and elephants—we need nourishment, are challenged by disease, and perish. And like many nonhuman animals—dogs, baboons, dolphins, cats—we are dependent, social creatures who like to play, who are sensate and emotional, who are capable of suffering not only adverse conditions (e.g., of temperature, pollution, malnutrition, disease, ravaging storms) but also...

    • CHAPTER 3 Pluralism, Truthfulness, and the Patience of Being
      (pp. 53-68)
      William Desmond

      How we understand truth cannot be disconnected from how we understand ourselves or from how we understand how we humans are to be. “How we are to be” indicates the human being as a creature with a certain promise of being that calls out to be realized in one way or other. Some ways will enable fulfillment of the promise if we are true to what we are. Some ways may betray the promise if we are false to what we are. The intimate connection of being human and being true is not a merely theoretical issue but has inescapable...

    • CHAPTER 4 Dignity and the Human as a Natural Kind
      (pp. 71-88)
      Daniel P. Sulmasy

      Dignity appears to be an important word in ethics, occurring five times in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations,¹ and five times in the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.² Ronald Dworkin has noted the fundamental moral significance of dignity, yet decried its lack of clear meaning:

      Anyone who professes to take rights seriously, and who praises our government for respecting them . . . must accept at a minimum, one or both of two important ideas. The first is the vague but powerful idea of human dignity. This idea, associated with Kant but defended...

    • CHAPTER 5 On Being True to Form
      (pp. 89-102)
      Margaret E. Mohrmann

      This chapter focuses on the subject of integrity, considered from a Christian theological perspective and, ultimately, in relation to the concerns and methods of bioethics. Although not an arm of theological ethics, bioethics does bear some resemblance to a close cousin of theological ethics, ancient Greek philosophical ethics: bioethics, though neither eudaemonistic nor centered on individual character, tends toward the practical (multiple theories notwithstanding) and is formulated for a limited, even elite, portion of the population. That is, bioethics speaks to the doers of medicine, the practitioners and policymakers, but rarely, if at all, to the “done-to.”

      A serious consideration...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Integrity Conundrum
      (pp. 103-116)
      Suzanne Holland

      In bioethics the conversation on integrity most commonly takes place in research ethics. We are all loath to repeat the horrors of Tuskegee, and so we design research studies with what we hope is integrity—that is to say, we aim first of all to protect the dignity and vulnerability of the persons in our studies. This we do through informed consent and through the principle of autonomy. But little of this, while laudable, is helpful in the many cases that come to us outside of the research arena. By focusing on a particular case, I aim to excavate what...

    • CHAPTER 7 Vulnerability and the Meaning of Illness: Reflections on Lived Experience
      (pp. 119-140)
      S. Kay Toombs

      My reflections on the vulnerability of patients and the meaning of illness have grown out of my own experience as a person living with chronic debilitating neurological disease. In 1973 , at the age of twenty-nine, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since that time I have lived with ongoing bodily disorder and increasing disability and have gained an intimate knowledge of what it means to live with chronic illness in the context of modern scientific medicine and the prevailing values of North American culture.¹

      I shall begin by exploring how predominant cultural attitudes with respect to the experience of...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Meditation on Vulnerability and Power
      (pp. 141-158)
      Richard M. Zaner

      Hospitalized for more than four months, Mrs. Oland, who just turned seventy-two years old, has been married for many years to a gentle, caring man, Thomas Oland. Several years her senior and still in good health, Mr. Oland is looked to for making crucial decisions during those times when his wife is unable to do so. They have three adult children, two of whom live in other cities and the other in the same city as her parents. One daughter, Janice, and the son, Charlie, are regular visitors; the younger daughter (and youngest child) works and is unable to visit...

    • CHAPTER 9 Vulnerability within the Body of Christ: Anointing of the Sick and Theological Anthropology
      (pp. 159-182)
      M. Therese Lysaught

      The philosophical anthropology that dominates medicine and bioethics too often reduces human identity to rationality and autonomy individualistically construed. Yet for such an anthropology, the realities of illness—a sine qua non of medicine and bioethics—stand as anomalies. Illness quickly marshals empirical evidence against its truth claims.

      Rather than standing as a confounding glitch, illness and healing have been central to the Christian tradition since its beginning. What one finds in early Christian sources is easy to miss or dismiss, given our habit of reading such narratives and practices with lenses shaped by modern philosophy. But if we listen...

    • CHAPTER 10 Gender and Human Relationality
      (pp. 185-206)
      Christine E. Gudorf

      Humans are adaptive. If we accept the theory of evolution, we understand adaptation as an aspect of all forms of life, most especially of the human species. One indication of human adaptability is our ability to live anywhere on Earth, in contrast to other animals that are limited to particular environments. This adaptability in human beings has created great cultural diversity among humans.

      One central element of human adaptivity is relationality. Humans become who we are in relationship to God, to other persons, to animals, and to the environment. Morality is an aspect of our relationality—it is the quality...

    • CHAPTER 11 Bioethics, Relationships, and Participation in the Common Good
      (pp. 207-222)
      Lisa Sowle Cahill

      Relationality is so integral a dimension of being human that it would be impossible to define morality without it. It is thus essential to any view of the human that could successfully ground a theologically informed bioethics. In fact, a recent publication of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) begins a discussion of relationality with this statement: “Human beings are made in the image of a triune God whose very nature is to be in relationship. As such, we are relational or social by nature. We are meant to exist in relationships—with ourselves, with others, with the rest of creation,...

    • CHAPTER 12 Health Care and a Theological Anthropology
      (pp. 225-230)
      Carol Taylor

      Each fall I pose the same question to the new group of chaplains and pastoral caregivers in our clinical pastoral education program. “What is it that your religious tradition invites you to ‘reach into’ to inform your ethical judgments about medical interventions?” Some Catholic chaplains quickly point to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, indicating that it applies centuries of Catholic moral teaching to contemporary health care issues. When asked what grounds these teachings, they often reference scripture but are frequently at a loss when pressed to...

    • CHAPTER 13 Health Policy and a Theological Anthropology
      (pp. 231-240)
      Ron Hamel

      In all probability, many policymakers as well as a good number of our fellow citizens (including some bioethicists) would look askance at the juxtaposition of the terms “health policy” and “theological anthropology.” Assuming they know what a theological anthropology is, some might, at best, wonder about the relevance of such a thing to the very practical concerns of policy making. How could something so theoretical and even esoteric have any bearing on shaping health policy? Others might become concerned or even fearful at the joining of the two terms. Their combination conjures up worries about the separation of church and...

    • CHAPTER 14 Science and a Theological Anthropology
      (pp. 241-246)
      Kevin T. FitzGerald

      Like scientific investigation, theological-anthropological reflection is an ongoing activity—one that must be engaged in active reflection upon and interaction with the findings of the natural sciences. Certainly, our understanding of human anatomy and physiology, human development, biochemistry, genetics, psychology—in short, every aspect of human nature that has been examined and investigated by the natural sciences—has changed radically over the course of history, particularly over the past several decades. Scientific investigation and biotechnical innovation will undoubtedly bring with them new challenges to our conceptions of human nature, human flourishing, and theological anthropology. Recently, the president’s council on bioethics...

  10. Toward a Richer Bioethics: A Conclusion
    (pp. 247-270)
    Edmund D. Pellegrino

    In these words, President Bush’s council on bioethics expressed its need for a “richer bioethics” with which to confront the challenges to our humanity inherent in the human use of contemporary biotechnology.¹ The council thus reminded itself, and all of us, of the pertinence for bioethics of what Ernst Cassirer rightly called “the Archimedean point, the fixed and immovable center of all thought.”² By this he meant the question of man’s self-knowledge, the anthropological question “What is man?”

    This is the question set aside by previous committees, commissions, and reports. Yet it is the foundation stone on which the theory...

    (pp. 271-272)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 273-284)