Conference Emphasizes Roles of Healer and Teacher For Health care Professional

TOLEDO, Ohio—The 200 health care professionals and Catholic leaders who gathered here Nov. 13–16 for the 66th annual meeting of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) discovered there is a lot to learn, and even more to teach, about a Catholic approach to giving care.

Sixteen medical experts and theologians gave their perspectives during the weekend. CMA Episcopal advisor Bishop Edwin O'Brien, D.D., S. T. D., spoke about the need for doctors to renew their ability to serve others through rest and prayer. Nationally-known speaker and author Fr. George Rutler talked about why an understanding of morality adds meaning to medical work.

Couple to Couple League President John Kippley gave facts about the abortifacent nature of the most widely used contraceptives. Dr. Dennis Doody spoke about the abortion connection with vaccines widely-used by U.S. doctors to immunize children. Dr. Sidney Fernandes, Judie Brown, and Mary Senander spoke about physician-assisted suicide, which they labeled “physician-imposed death.”

Physicians received copies of the restatement of the Hippocratic Oath, developed by recently deceased Dr. Joseph Stanton. Nurses were given a copy of the Nightingale Pledge.

“When Bishop O'Brien talked about the need for rest and prayer, I was helped right away,” said Dr. Roger Anderberg, a pediatrician from Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Doctors don't usually think along these lines, but we need to take time to stop, rest, recollect, and make contact with the Lord in order to go on serving,” he continued. Anderberg also took warning from sharing by doctors from Oregon, where death by overdose was just approved by voters, who said they are under extreme pressure to compromise their beliefs.

“When I listened to the doctors from Oregon, it opened my eyes. I began to see that I'm like a frog in water, and the water is heating up. I can't feel the heat yet, but I'd better take notice,” said Anderberg.

Michael O'Dea, a health insurance executive who operates crisis pregnancy centers in the Detroit area, noted how each topic discussed was an entry point for those working in the health care fields to learn more about building a culture of life. “The challenge for the Catholic health care professional in addressing the crux of the problem-how to promote life from its beginning to its natural end-is to constantly keep in mind and bear witness to the fact that God creates eternal souls,” said O'Dea.

“The CMA conference is beneficial to Catholic doctors because it supports them in the faith and exposes them to things they don't read in the secular journals,” CCL President John Kippley said. “The great benefit of the CMA conference to the rest of the Church is through the Catholic doctors who attend and who have such great influence upon their patients.”

Kippley, Anderberg, and O'Dea were responding to the conference's message that Catholic doctors need to become teachers of their patients and associates about the Christian approach to preserving life. James Keating, Ph.D., of the Pontifical College Josephinium in Columbus, Ohio, urged doctors to get involved in their parishes both to build a lifestyle of service and active witness.

Next year's CMA conference will be held in New York City, September 10–13. (Kate Ernsting)