THE HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN AS RELIGIOUS INTERPRETER IN BIOETHICAL DILEMMAS
Keywords:bioethics, religious beliefs, validity, pastoral role, dialogue, ambiguity, The Golubchuck Case
Using a recent example of a highly publicized case in Canada in which a family’s demands for life-sustaining treatment based on religious beliefs were pitted against a physician’s re-fusal to provide “inappropriate” care, this article critiques the suggestion that chaplains function as “religious interpreters” in bioethics cases that seek to determine the medical validity of religious beliefs. It argues that the chaplain as interpreter of religious beliefs and values requires a full vision of the chaplain’s unique and complex role in healthcare that (1) regards the patient not the chaplain as the “expert,” (2) utilizes a variety of key images of pastoral care, and (3) engages a process of dialogical hermeneutics. It concludes that in its broadest understanding and fullest appreciation beyond judgemental interpretation of facts alone pastoral care provides a helpful re-source to healthcare teams and an influential model in the art of ethics consultation that embraces uncertainty to build trust among stakeholders.
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