In Search of a New Paradigm: Healthcare and the Common Good

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Director C. Ben Mitchell and I are on the heels of returning from Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. Bookending the trip, the Center sponsored two events to kick off one of our major emphases over the coming year—Healthcare and the Common Good.

Hardly a day goes by without some article on the growing problems in U.S. healthcare or another presidential candidate’s campaign proposal for its reform. While many of these proposals focus on justice, fairness, and equality, they resort to the language of rights and ignore the identification of key concepts such as health and societal good. It is for this reason that the Center seeks to explore the current healthcare debate in the framework of the common good. By utilizing this framework to understand healthcare in the language of shared humanity (the “common”) and human flourishing (the “good”), we hope to foster a new, more encompassing, conversation about both health and care.

To this end the Center held a networking evening in the D.C. area in which several of our constituents, consultants, congressional staffers, and like-minded policy figures gathered to brainstorm the shape and direction of this new initiative. This event was followed by a full-day consultation convened in the House Rayburn building with leading figures from several major D.C. policy organizations and think tanks, as well as key leaders in the field of bioethics and Christian higher education.

The consultation, a joint initiative of CBHD and the Stead Center (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary), was an opportunity for these leading figures to interact with the facts and figures of the economic situation, two differing open-minded proposals for reform, and a philosophical critique of Rawlsian notions of fairness and equality starkly contrasted with the virtue of charity. In many ways this consultation was merely setting the stage, identifying the key pressure points in this complex conversation and offering preliminary steps forward for future activities and conversations.

This initiative will culminate with our 2008 15th Annual Summer Conference, where you shouldn’t be surprised if it includes something like healthcare and the common good in the title. Given the importance of this debate in our current national climate, the Center is trying to provide leadership in shaping this conversation from a clear commitment to Judeo-Christian Hippocratism in a meaningful manner. This is just one of the many ongoing initiatives of the Center that we invite you to both utilize through our ongoing development of resources, as well as to contribute through your own efforts.