A Fresh Look at Health

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Over 400 healthcare providers gathered in Seoul, South Korea, October 10-14, 2006, to take “A Fresh Look at Health” and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Healthcare Christian Fellowship International (HCFI). The Asia–Pacific Far East Regional HCFI Conference, in which over half the attendees were from abroad, drew people from 32 foreign countries and from as far away as the US, Canada, and South Africa. The majority of the overseas participants were physicians (70%) and nurses (20%), whereas the majority who attended from Korea were hospital chaplains, pastors, and evangelists (60%). In my capacity as a CBHD Fellow, I represented the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity by presenting a breakout session entitled “What is Bioethics?”

Dr. Sang Chul Synn, President of HCF Korea, Dr. George McDonald, President of HCF International, and Rev. Chan Kyu Hwang, Far East Conference Coordinator, gave welcoming messages. Dr. Daniel Fountain, former medical missionary in Congo, Africa, and currently Director of Global Health Training in the US, was the keynote speaker, and Peter Wong, Asian Bible Seminar speaker, did the Bible exposition.

Breakout sessions included such topics as Emotions and Health, Parish Nursing, and Hospital Evangelism. Daily session began at 5:30 AM with early morning prayer. Morning and Evening sessions were filled with praise and worship singing focusing on God’s goodness and abundant provision.

Over 70 participants attended the CBHD sponsored breakout session on Bioethics. My presentation gave answers to the question “What is bioethics?” by giving examples under three headings that cover most topics in clinical bioethics today: Taking Life (abortion, impaired infants, and physician-assisted suicide); Making Life (artificial reproductive technologies, genetic engineering, stem cell research, and cloning); and Faking Life (artificial intelligence, cybernetics, nanotechnology, and robotics). Different secular approaches to consider these issues were evaluated. A Christian approach to ethical decision making, with clearly distinctive perspectives and worldview, was presented. Case studies based upon the “image of God” and using the language of human dignity were discussed.

In the open discussion following the presentation, audience participants shared real life scenarios that created moral distress for them in their practice. Their poignant personal examples significantly impacted the group and lead to a time of prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and requesting courage for all of us as we deal with these difficult real life situations.

I am in Seoul Korea this academic year as a senior Fulbright Scholar teaching healthcare ethics at Yonsei University College of Nursing. This fall semester, I have had the privilege of presenting bioethics topics from a Christian perspective to the Korea Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Society, and to students and faculty at several universities in Korea. Next semester, I will be discussing bioethics with nurse leaders in Hong Kong, Hangzhou China and Japan.