Health Ethics Guide

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Values of the Health Ethics Guide

The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada’s Health Ethics Guide (3rd Edition, Novalis, 2012), provides the following description of the fundamental moral values that guide the care provided at St. Paul’s Hospital:

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, and many other traditions also, the core moral duty persons owe each other is to “love one another”, to be “neighbor” to the other as set out in the parable of the Good Samaritan. That core Gospel value gives rise to the call to respect dignity, the call to foster trust and the call to promote justice. These aspects of charity or compassion can be expanded to highlight other more specific values that help direct ethical discernment and decision making. These values are not, for the most part, unique to Catholic healthcare, but they are essential for faithfulness to the Catholic tradition.

The Call to Respect Dignity

  • Respect for the dignity of every human person – The lives of all persons possess an inherent dignity and worth that is independent of that which any other person or the State may bestow upon them. The basis for this dignity, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the belief that every human being is made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). In the provision of health and social services this value becomes the basis for the requirements around informed consent, privacy and confidentiality.
  • Respect for all human life – All human life is a gift of God’s love and the prerequisite for all other human goods. It is to be respected from conception until natural death. Nevertheless, the preservation of human life is not an absolute good, and may be forgone, for example, in defense of others or in allowing death to come by not using means to preserve life that are overly burdensome or ineffective.

The Call to Foster Trust

  • The interconnectedness of every human being – Trust both requires and establishes relationship. Human persons are social beings and normally cannot live or develop their potential outside of human relationships and community. This fundamental value affirms that every person is interconnected with every human being, with all of creation and with God.
  • Stewardship and creativity – Human persons are in relationship not only with each other but with all of creation. The scriptures present a view of creation as both gift and responsibility. All of creation is God’s gift to us. Consequently, as stewards of creation, we share a responsibility to respect, protect and care for all of the environment and for ourselves. We are to use our own free and intelligent creativity to discover the benefits of nature both around us and in our own persons, while humbly respecting any limitations inherent in it.

The Call to Promote Justice

  • Justice – Justice is to give the other what is that person’s due. It is recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of others. “Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, … justice is inseparable from charity and intrinsic to it” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 6).
  • The common good – This fundamental value is central to the Catholic tradition and has recently been re-emphasized. “Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society … It is the good of ‘all of us’, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is the good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 7). It is the building of a just and compassionate social order in which true human development is encouraged. By extension, the common good includes respect for the environment as well.
  • Solidarity – Solidarity is “first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot be merely relegated to the state” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 7). It is more than the political overtones it has had in some countries, but carries vast socio-economic implications for charity. For example, papal teaching has used it as another way to speak of charity in regard to the justification for certain kinds of organ transplants.