- Catholic Witness in Health Care: Practicing Medicine in Truth and Love ed. by John M. Travaline And Louise A. Mitchell
This work of twenty-seven authors, among whom are philosophers, theologians, and medical personnel, is a creative interdisciplinary effort covering practical health issues in the medical field, looking at the challenges through the lens of Catholic bioethical principles, and identifying how [End Page 151] treatments have a moral teleology about them. The book uses at least two hundred different medical terms describing on-site problems of the human body, which can make the nonmedical reader feel somewhat inadequate. However, these descriptions of certain illnesses and their ensuing medical-moral problems can be understood by someone who knows the teachings of the Church regarding authentic health care.
Differing kinds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and teachers will find in this book a plethora of wise advice. For medical schools in need of a book to train future professionals, this work is an excellent resource in this field of cure and care. Bioethics (medical moral theology) is a branch of the social teaching of the Church that depends upon the key concept of the dignity of the human person, here applied in the physical way of treating the body and soul. A type of bridge exists here between anthropology and eschatology. Human beings are, in a unique way, transcendent creatures on this planet and, after the resurrection of the body, will exist forever as spiritual embodied persons. Furthermore, bioethics is part of the Church's social teaching because health care deals with the common good of a society, and evil moral practices in this area can corrupt a county's sense of right and wrong, as has become evident in the ethos supporting contraception, abortion, and euthanasia in many countries, which consider these practices health care rather than health destruction. Wading through problems of proportionate or disproportionate cure and care requires the utmost prudence on the part of the practitioner. This book provides a profound introduction to the sound, multidisciplinary thinking that a good doctor, psychologist (see esp. chap. 11), or pharmacist (see esp. chap. 12) must possess in the secular world of medicine.
The book is divided into three parts: basic principles of health care (the three beginning chapters), the "clinical context" (nine chapters of practical on-site issues and their resolution), and spiritual theology (the three concluding chapters). The text contains a plethora of endnotes and several appendices for further research. Spiritual advice is found throughout. Moral dilemmas are faced with sound solutions, always keeping in mind that absolute certitude in this field must often yield to moral certitude. Future doctors and medical persons are reminded from time to time of the importance of the priest or minister in their encounters with patients. The spiritual problems that need to be faced often help patients either to be healed or to accept the consequences of their illness with peace. Nevertheless, medical persons need to develop a "pastoral" side in their work, similar to the priest's approach, knowing how to ask the right questions to prompt patients to think about either their potential demise or the difficult consequences of treatment. Machines alone never tell the whole story of the cause of chronic or even intractable pain and suffering; they cannot replace interaction with a wise human being. Indeed, feelings of fear and anxiety often mask medical problems.
Future and beginning priests can profit in a special way by beginning with chapter 3 since it deals with the pastoral care of the sick and dying, an integral [End Page 152] part of a parish priest's ministry. This can motivate such a reader to dive into the other sections of the book, which at first blush may appear daunting. Bringing the sacrament of the sick is not the only gift that the priest brings to those with serious illnesses: he...