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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2018

M. Therese Lysaught, Michael McCarthy
Pages 111-130
DOI: 10.1353/sce.2018.0036

A Social Praxis for US Health Care
Revisioning Catholic Bioethics via Catholic Social Thought

Catholic health care has long been a key place where the Church embodies its social doctrine. However, the moral methodology that shapes Catholic bioethics relies on an act-based approach to decision making, which is rooted in the pre–Vatican II manualist tradition, focusing primarily on clinical issues related to the beginning and end of life. This essay argues that given the doctrinal status of Catholic social thought (CST), Catholic bioethics must revisit its scope and methodology. It proceeds in three steps: (1) a meta-analysis of traditional Catholic bioethics, validating the claim made above; (2) an overview of the limited literature published since 1980 engaging Catholic bioethics and CST; and (3) a map of a Catholic bioethics informed by CST generated from a dual starting point. The essay concludes by focusing on both the places where marginalized persons encounter Catholic health care and the ethical issues presented, including race, health care disparities, immigration status, and gender inequality, as well as the interrelated perspective of the common good, expanding the array of issues to include environmental degradation, unions, health care financing, and more.