The focus of health care is to bring healing to those in need—that is, to patients. At the Christ Medicus Foundation and CMF CURO, we advocate for Christ-centered healing that recognizes the inherent dignity of each patient, the importance of individual conscience, and that Christ is the source of all healing. Additionally, we recognize the dignity of health care workers. The dignity of health care workers often goes unrecognized. Unfortunately, just as patients see their rights violated, sometimes health care workers do as well.
The dignity of health care professionals can be violated in many ways.
We have previously written about the need for health care workers to have a private right of action so that they can sue in federal court if they are forced to perform procedures that violate their beliefs.
Another, more subtle way that the dignity of health care professionals is undermined is by labeling them as “providers.” Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists do indeed provide medical services to the public, but they are, first and foremost, medical professionals committed to the practice of medicine. The medical services they perform cannot be done by robots and require authentic care, compassion, and competence. In serving society, they use their God-given gifts to contribute to the common good to help restore the gift of health, over which God is sovereign. From a Catholic worldview, health care professionals are co-healers, sharing in the healing mission of Christ.
The beautiful, subjective dignity of the individual health care professional and of their vocation is eclipsed when we refer to them as merely “providers.” While it is true that they provide care, that is what they do, not who they are. We must first recognize them as sons and daughters of God called to the medical profession. By reducing medical professionals to providers of medical care, we create a distorted expectation of receiving what we desire. That is not what medicine is; it is not ordered towards the desire of the patient. Medicine is ordered towards the good of the patient, which is authentic healing in light of the nature of the human person. Doctors have a duty to provide authentic medical care to those in need, but they should not be required to provide unethical services that patients may desire such as abortion, euthanasia, or in vitro fertilization.
Our culture often obscures the human reality of medicine. Not only does medicine involve technical and scientific competence, but it requires compassion and personal closeness. It embraces the art of accompaniment by assisting people on their journey to greater health of spirit, mind, and body. What is often forgotten is the spiritual component of medicine—the fact that our spiritual health is intertwined with our overall wellness, and the fact that Jesus desires physicians to pray for and over their patients. Medicine is not strictly about science and technology rather, it is about the employment of science and technology to heal those made in the image and likeness of God (which necessarily involves closeness, compassion, and spirituality).
Each of us can help restore the subjective dignity of health care professionals.
Most importantly, we can pray for them. We can pray for their excellence, compassion, and humility. We can pray they humbly recognize their limited, delegated power to heal in conjunction with Christ’s complete authority to heal – body, mind, and soul. We can pray for them to respect moral boundaries and to never be complicit in the atrocities of euthanasia, abortion, in vitro fertilization, gender reassignment surgery, or other acts which call into question the integrity of medicine.
Beyond prayer, we can work to ensure that they are consulted in health-related public policy discussions. We can also advocate for the protection of their right of conscience, so that they may provide care that is consistent with the natural law. Finally, we can directly give thanks and gratitude to health care professionals, particularly in a time such as this when they risk their own health to serve us.
Let us celebrate the gift of medicine and the service of those who practice it with dignity and sensitivity to the nature of the human person. May every doctor and medical professional know that every patient they treat is created in the image and likeness of God; and may every patient recognize that every medical professional is created in His image and likeness as well. We are all eternally beloved of His Sacred Heart.