Episode 4 | Bioethics and Faith in Medicine

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One of the most difficult questions that patients can ask a healthcare provider is “why me?”. To complicate things further, this question is often posed with spiritual or religions undertones, i.e. “why is X, Y, Z god doing this to me?” While healthcare providers seek to treat the physical, at one point in their career they will be challenged to respond to questions of spiritual and religious doubt. This is no easy task, as studies have shown that spiritual care is an enigmatic area for healthcare providers with multiple barriers (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28249545?log$=activity; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24480531).

The entwinement of faith and spirituality with medicine is the focus of a relatively new medical school elective offered by multiple Jesuit medical schools across the country.  The elective, titled the “Physician’s Vocation Program” (PVP), PVP aims to cultivate a sense of calling, i.e. vocation, by integrating aspects of religious formation–prayer, self-reflection, community, service, and education–into the formation of student doctors. The inspiration for a discussion about faith, spirituality, and bioethics in medicine came from discussions held by medical students in this course. To help shed light onto ways in which we can answer questions such as “why me?”, we brought in renowned bioethicist and PVP director Dr. John Hardt.

John Hardt, Ph.D. is the Vice President for Mission Integration for Trinity Health Illinois and Associate Provost for Mission and Identity at Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division.  In his capacity as Vice President, he is responsible for the implementation, growth, and assessment of Trinity Health’s mission and ethics portfolio across the region.  

John received his doctorate in moral theology from Boston College and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago’s Maclean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.  As an associate professor, his work has concentrated on end-of-life care, physician conscience, and professional formation.  He has testified before thePresident’s Council on Bioethics on conscience in the clinical encounter.  He was awarded a two-year grant in 2012 from the University of Chicago’s Program on Medicine and Religion where he served as a Faculty Scholar.  His grant research focused on Ignatian spirituality and the formation of physicians and launched The Physicians’ Vocation Program, a four-year program for medical students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine interested in exploring the concept of vocation in their own lives as future doctors.