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Health and Human Flourishing

Religion, Medicine, and Moral Anthropology

Carol R. Taylor and Roberto Dell’Oro, Editors

Publication Year: 2006

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 anthropologyùa theological understanding of what it means to be a human beingùcan 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.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

...This volume is the outcome of just such serious, and interdisciplinary, ethical reflection and discourse. As our faculty grappled with how best to think about the “promises and perils” of new medical discoveries, emerging biotechnologies, and unprecedented social change, we repeatedly bemoaned the absence of a rich theological anthropology for bioethics...

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pp. 1-10

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 ...


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1 Theological Anthropology and Bioethics

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pp. 13-32

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 ...

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2 Vulnerability, Agency, and Human Flourishing

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pp. 33-52

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 ...

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3 Pluralism, Truthfulness, and the Patience of Being

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pp. 53-68

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 ...


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4 Dignity and the Human as a Natural Kind

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pp. 71-87

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:...

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5 On Being True to Form

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pp. 89-102

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 ...

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6 The Integrity Conundrum

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pp. 103-115

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...


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7 Vulnerability and the Meaning of Illness: Reflections on Lived Experience

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pp. 119-140

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 ...

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8 A Meditation on Vulnerability and Power

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pp. 141-158

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...

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9 Vulnerability within the Body of Christ: Anointing of the Sick and Theological Anthropology

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pp. 159-182

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...


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10 Gender and Human Relationality

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pp. 185-205

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...

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11 Bioethics, Relationships, and Participation in the Common Good

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pp. 207-222

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 ...


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12 Health Care and a Theological Anthropology

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pp. 225-229

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...

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13 Health Policy and a Theological Anthropology

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pp. 231-240

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...

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14 Science and a Theological Anthropology

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pp. 241-246

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...

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Toward a Richer Bioethics: A Conclusion

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pp. 247-269

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...


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pp. 271-272


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pp. 273-284

E-ISBN-13: 9781589013360
E-ISBN-10: 1589013360
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589010796
Print-ISBN-10: 1589010795

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2006