Partnership with the Dying: Where Medicine and Ministry Should Meet

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9780742544673: Partnership with the Dying: Where Medicine and Ministry Should Meet

What do physicians, nurses, chaplains, and social workers think about moral and religious issues in care for the dying? These professionals live with death, including many untimely and difficult deaths, on a daily basis. Based on intensive interviews with a cross sample of health care professionals, David H. Smith details how the churches could not only be supportive of these primary caregivers in dealing with end of life issues, but how they could enlist their help in informing their own congregations about the realities of death.

To care for the dying is spiritually demanding work. Churches should not let health professionals struggle with religious issues―whether of patients, families, or their own―in isolation. Smith's respondents offer powerful perspectives on the issue of physician assisted suicide. Religious and theological ethics cannot afford to ignore insights and questions that come from those who deal with dying every day. Finding meaning in the face of human suffering comes less from doctrine than from living a certain kind of life.

This book is a clarion call for new, practical, and vital forms of education, support, and commitment, particularly within the churches, in the cause of improving care for the dying.

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About the Author:

David H. Smith is director of the Poynter Center at Indiana University and chair of the Episcopal Church's Task Force on Ethics and the New Genetics.

Review:

At a time when many are seeking scientific proof for the health effects of religious rituals, David Smith calls for a deeper understanding of the role of religion and spirituality in healing, and especially in care of the severely and terminally ill. Partnership with the Dying is an important book for both health professionals and religious leaders and their communities. It deserves a wide reading. (Larry R. Churchill, Ph.D.,, Ann Geddes Stahlman Professor of Medical Ethics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center)

Like Robert Cole, David H. Smith builds his book on interviews, in this case with various caregivers to the dying―physicians, nurses, chaplains, and social workers. Robert Cole is always eloquent, but the people he talks to all sound like the celebrated author who speaks through them. Smith's interviewees remain distinctively themselves, while the author converses thoughtfully with them. The results are a rich trove of insights for professionals, family members, friends, and church members who must reckon with death and the dying. (William F. May Ph.D, Cary M. Maguire Professor of Ethics Emeritus, Southern Methodist University)

In the efforts to improve the treatment of dying people in the United States, the religious or spiritual commitments of health care professionals have often been understood as irrelevant to or even as inconsistent with their caretaking obligations in our pluralist, secular culture. David Smith shows how explicit attention by professionals to their deepest convictions about human mortality can be the wellspring for more profound and therefore more caring interactions with dying patients without in any way disrespecting the differing religious or spiritual traditions that may be professed by these patients. This is a wise and thoughtful book. (Robert A. Burt, Professor of Law, Yale University, and author of Death Is That Man Taking Names: Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Cu)

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