Belgian Archbishop lectures on health care and religion

Friday, March 23, 2007

Archbishop Danneels (center) with on his left side Bernard Himpens, Dean of Medicine at the Catholic University of Leuven.
The Archbishop at the beginning of the lecture, with Ethics professor Paul Schotsmans of the Commission for Medical Ethics on the right.

Yesterday, Belgian Archbishop Godfried Danneels visited the Catholic University of Leuven to give a lecture on health care and religion, entitled "Care for the body, care for the mind". Some 120 people, mainly professors at the University Hospitals, but also clerics and students, attended the conference and following piano recital.

In his introduction speech, Dean of Medicine Bernard Himpens reminded the audience how much the art of medicine had changed since the time of Andreas Vesalius, probably the Faculty's most famous scientist. The Dean stressed the important role of the Hospital's Biomedical Ethics Committee, but added that religion continues to be important.

"Some people even believe that good ethics must be carried by faith, and any profound ethics should result in faith," the Dean noted. He asked the question where the evolution of a merely "passive tolerance for the Christian starting points" would lead the health care system.

In his lecture, the Archbishop acknowledged that the technical aspects of health care were probably the most important to achieve results, but that on the other hand, the medical-technical approach by itself could not guarantee the happiness of the patients.

Wikinews asked Professor Martin Hiele, Chairman of the Commission for Medical Ethics, if he felt there was a need for a lecture on the subject of religion and health care. He replied that

Especially when it concerns health, disease and death, everyone is looking for answers. The influence of the Church and of religion on the way that the health care system deals with life and death is an important topic nowadays -that is the reason that a lot of people have come today, I think.

Prof. Bernard Spitz, from the University's Department of Developmental Biology and head of the Hospital's Obstetrics Department, told Wikinews that

Religion is important in our profession. Increasingly you see that it becomes more technical, but also that people start looking for differentiation. A lot of people do the same thing technically, but not everyone does it from the same perspective. Also, when in organisation that used to be based on an ideology, this ideology disappears, people become burn-out, asking themselves why it is that they work so hard.

The lecture was organised by the DeGroof Bank and the Faculty of Medicine. It is the first of three lectures on the subject of religion, spirituality and ethics in health care.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.