Acts of Conscience: Patients and Providers Can Exercise Religious Discernment Too

Kate Parke’s recent piece, “Critical Condition,” rightly highlights the very real physical and economic harm that can befall patients when standard medical care is withheld from them in the name of religious doctrine. In a broader sense, as a physi­cian and a Christian myself, I find the imposition of a particular moral outlook offensive because it represents a denial of the validity of providers’ and patients’ religious discern­ment. I am called to medi­cine as a vocation, and I work every day to be compassionate, thoughtful and skillful as I provide care. Likewise, as my patients make challenging decisions about their health—decisions that they often wish they didn’t have to make—they frequently lean on religious teachings about love, justice and responsibility. No docu­ment, well-intentioned and scripturally inspired though it may be, can replace the labor, meditation and prayer that happen at the bedside in such circumstances. To suggest otherwise is to imply that this conscien­tious struggle is doctrinally invalid, and I simply cannot accept that such hubris is in keeping with the Gospel.

BENJAMIN P. BROWN, MD
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

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