Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis

By Benedict M. Ashley; Jean K. Deblois et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

OVERVIEW

ALTHOUGH INDIVIDUALS HAVE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO care for their own physiological health as well as for the psychological, ethical, and spiritual aspects of their personal development, such development can be achieved only with the help of other members of the community. People belong to many different communities: their family, various social organizations, business organizations, and various civic entities. Many of these communities have a direct or indirect relationship to a person's health or health care. In advanced communities, such help is furnished by persons who have committed themselves to this vocation and been educated for the special social roles called the health care professions and also by society, that is, by government funding. This chapter considers the chief ethical responsibilities of these various social entities. Because the health care profession is one among several professions basic to the culture of any advanced community, we consider the nature of professions in general, then specific characteristics of the health care profession. Because the health care profession is founded upon trust, we focus upon the activities in the physician-patient relationship that foster trust, counseling, and communication and confidentiality. When considering the responsibilities of the civic society, an analysis of the task of local communities is beyond the scope of our concern. We focus instead on the federal level and begin by examining the politics in the United States in regard to health care, the principles that should inform health care policy, and the efforts of society to formulate ethical public policy for health care. Finally, we consider the responsibility of Catholic institutions as they contribute to provision of health care in the United States.

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