Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
CHAC prepares for ethical and policy challenges
Sr. Nuala Kenny
BY DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The Catholic Health Association of Canada (CHAC) is strengthening its team to address looming ethical and policy challenges.
The CHAC has appointed well-known medical ethics educator Sister Nuala Kenny to join the organization in 2009 as an ethics and policy advisor.
MISSION OF HEALING
“There’s a huge challenge to reclaim the importance of the mission of healing,” said Kenny, noting that Catholic health care is being defined by what it does not do, instead of what it does.”
Catholic health care is the Church’s response to the sick and the poor, a literal working out of Christ’s teachings, she said. Kenny, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, is a medical doctor and academic who got her degree from Dalhousie University, where she later founded the department of bioethics.
Her research interests have included professional character formation, ethics in health policy and public health, pediatric ethics and end-of-life care.
Kenny has spent most of her professional life in non-religious circles where she has had to explain the ethical principles formed by her Catholic faith without religious terminology.
“I’ve had to find a way to make these fundamental issues meaningful within the public sphere,” she said.
In October, the CHAC board appointed James Roche as president after Gerard Lewis, who had served three years, stepped down last August. Roche brings his experience of vice president of ethics advocacy and government relations to the post. Some Catholic leaders have warned that bishops would close Catholic hospitals rather than comply with abortion on demand.
Roche said provincial human rights commission policies are another area where Catholic health care providers have to “be attentive.” The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons drafted a policy to bring it in line with Ontario human rights laws, a policy that would have endangered conscience rights.
Kenny said she has grave concerns about the ethical formation of doctors. She also warned of the impact on public policy as health care becomes more technological and services become amalgamated. Society is losing its sense of doctors as moral agents, she said, and this is playing out in policies that will force doctors to act against their conscience.