Courses Offered by Faculty
CCTS 21004 / RLST 26315 (100 units)
Christian Traditions and Medicine in the Late Modern World
Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Herbert Lin, PhD Candidate in Theology
What is the meaning of medicine in our contemporary world? How has it changed over time, and what are its normative conditions and challenges? What religious and spiritual resources might Christian traditions bring to bear on such questions? This course rests on the assumption that contemporary challenges in medicine stem from a moral pluralism reflecting the cultural conditions of late modernity, as well as from a growing inability to maintain clinical excellence in an increasingly complex and bureaucratic health care system. We will first examine this assumption and its sociological, historical, and theological significance. In parallel, we will engage guest speakers throughout the course who will help us comparatively explore several Christian responses to modernity and to diverse domains of medicine. Lastly, we will critically explore James Hunter’s constructive proposal of “faithful presence,” and what that might mean in the context of medicine. Our goal, ultimately, will be to reflect on the conditions and challenges of modern medicine and to appraise the historical and theological resources that the Christian traditions may offer.
MEDC 30030 / RETH 30030
Religious Perspectives on the Clinical Encounter
Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Aasim I. Padela, MD, MSc
Medicine is a moral practice, and suffering, illness, and dying are among the most deeply challenging of all human experiences. It is not surprising then that religious and spiritual traditions inform the ways many patients and clinicians understand, navigate, cope with, and make decisions related to illness. These traditions are a significant source of personal identity for some clinicians and also serve as a moral framework through which groups of patients and providers address challenges in healthcare. A burgeoning literature on the religious characteristics of clinicians delineates how clinicians’ religious traditions and commitments can shape their clinical practices (Program on Medicine and Religion). Drawing from this literature and the primary course text, Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine (Michael Balboni, PhD & Tracy A. Balboni, MD, Oxford University Press, 2018), this course will provoke learners to consider the religious and spiritual dimensions of the clinician-patient relationship, while covering broad concepts relevant to the intersection of the clinical encounter with religion (the Abrahamic traditions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). Students will engage the course text’s primary argument that contemporary medicine with its secular-sacred divide is suffering from a form of collective spiritual sickness—namely, that depersonalizing, social forces through the market, technology, and legal-bureaucratic powers are reducing clinicians to tiny cogs in an unstoppable machine. This course will explore these hostilities threatening medicine and offer a path forward for the partnership of modern medicine and religion/spirituality. Guest speakers will also enrich the course by offering a personal perspective on the ways their religious traditions inform their approach to the clinical encounter.
CCTS 21005 / MED 31005 (100 units)
The Making of the “Good Physician”: Virtue Ethics and the Development of Moral Character in Medicine (Scholars in Ethics and Medicine)
Instructors: John D. Yoon, MD & Michael Hawking, MD
MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics (ethics fellowship, Spring Module)
Religion, Bioethics, and Medicine
Instructors: Aasim Padela MD, MSc & M. Jeanne Wirpsa, MA, BCC
Religious traditions provide frameworks for understanding the human being and disease, and for attending to the moral dimensions of healthcare within the clinical encounter. For many patients (and healthcare providers) their religious identity strongly informs their health and healthcare behaviors, and religious authorities (texts as well as interpreters of those texts) provide ethical guidance by which to navigate the challenges of contemporary clinical medicine. This course will provoke learners to consider the religious dimensions of health and the clinician-patient relationship and will look closely at salient clinical medical ethical challenges faced by adherents of various religious traditions and the theologicial/ethico-legal concepts that undergird these challenges.
A Mentored Introduction to Islam and Bioethics
Instructor: Aasim I. Padela, MD, MS
Islamic bioethics, both as a cohesive field of inquiry and as an academic discipline, is still under construction. Its content, scope and research methods are the subject of scholarly debate. Ambiguities regarding the contours of an Islamic bioethics do not stem from the lack of a moral theology outlined by scripture, nor from a dearth of ethico-legal judgments pertaining to medicine and healthcare formulated by Islamic jurists. Rather the challenge is to devise a comprehensive bioethical theory, rooted in Islamic moral theology and attentive to those juridical ethico-legal assessments, that can serve healthcare stakeholders (patients, health professionals, religious leaders, and others) in pluralistic Muslim-minority contexts as well as those living in Muslim-majority contexts where Islamic law may be a source of state legislation.
The multidisciplinary nature of bioethical inquiry leads to a crisis of epistemology and legitimacy. It is not clear how much weight should be accorded to the reality on the ground (what is) when considering the moral ordering of society (what should be). Hence an overstated, but nevertheless pertinent, tension exists between religious authorities and philosophers on the one hand, who consider moral reasoning to have normative value independent of social reality, and social scientists on the other, who describe contextually-driven human ethical decision-making. The epistemological and lexical challenges for an “Islamic” bioethics are arguably still more profound, because notions about moral norms, the good, and the ethical are scattered across different Islamic sciences including moral theology (uṣūl al-fiqh), scholastic theology (ʿilm al-kalām), jurisprudence and law (fiqh), as well as within various genres and practices related to moral formation and spiritual development (taṣawwuf and adab).The “Islamic” character of Islamic bioethics is thus also debated. As the academic study of religion has come to deploy social science-based methods for examining the lived experiences and meaning-making activities of religious communities, the primacy of the analysis of religious texts for understanding religion has become contested.
This course is a mentored and directed reading course that introduces students to critical concepts in Islamic theology and law that undergird normative ethical frameworks within Islam and exposes the student to exemplar works from the wide range of Islamic bioethics literature. The first part of the course will focus on the theoretical aspects of the Islamic moral and ethical tradition and cover scholarly contestations regarding Islamic moral theology as they relate to Islamic bioethics. The latter half of course will focus on the practical aspects of the emerging field by considering research methods for the field and selected literature reviews of Islamic responses to pressing bioethical issues.