Faith-to-Faith at the Bedside: Theological and Ethical Issues in Ecumenical Clinical Chaplaincy
Mellon, Brad F.
Christian Bioethics 2003 April; 9(1): 57-67
Chaplains who serve in a clinical context often minister to patients representing a wide variety of faiths. In order to offer the best pastoral care possible, the chaplain should first possess a set of personal theological convictions as a foundation for ministry. Second, he or she needs to be sensitive to the beliefs and practices of the patients. Third, it is vital to develop a relationship of acceptance and trust not only with patients under their care, but also with family members and caregivers as well. At times, situations will arise that are purely religious or theological. In a clinical setting, however, the questions and problems that arise more often are both theological and ethical. It is beneficial for the chaplain to be involved in an ethics committee, where the specifics of each case can be discussed, and staff can offer counsel to patients and their families. This study examines issues that chaplains face at the bedside, such as terminal care, life-prolonging treatments, dementia, persistent vegetative state, and euthanasia-assisted suicide. We will discover that those who are involved in clinical pastoral ministry will be called upon to be a comforter, mediator, educator, ethicist, and counselor.
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