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

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

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

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


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.


The Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University is a universitybased 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 theol
ogy, philosophy, basic science and clinical practice to today's ethi
cal 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 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. Drawing on our respective disciplines, we devoted numerous worksin-progress to efforts identifying what theology, philosophy, science, and medicine claim about what it means to be human and to an exploration of whether or not these beliefs ought to hold normative value.

In the earliest days of this project, urged by Warren Lux and Roberto Dell'Oro, we focused specifically on the fact of human vulnerability. We tried to envision how American bioethics would have evolved had responsiveness to vulnerability been one of the Beauchamp and Childress core principles, standing proudly with beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice. It became apparent, however, that what we really wanted to do was to ask more foundational questions about human health and flourishing . . .

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