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Electives - Humanities and Ethics in Medicine

Religious Traditions and Medicine

Elective Number: (Oasis E18a) 3501

Rotation Supervisor: Dr. James F. Childress

Coordinator: Dr. Marcia Day Childress, 5361 Barringer, 434.924.5974; woolf@virginia.edu

Available: Rotation 8

Report to: TBA

Time to Report: 9:00 am

Place to Report: Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Office, Barringer 5

Typical Day: 9:00 - 11:00 am

Attendance: Attendance at elective activities is mandatory.

  • Anyone who is ill or has a personal or family emergency must contact Student Affairs and the Attending on Service.
  • Students are allowed to take off up to 1 day per week to interview between November 1 and February 1.
    • Specific days missed must be approved by the Attending on Service.

Number of students per rotation: Minimum of 4, Maximum of 12

Course Description: This course examines how major religious traditions—particularly Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and African religions—understand health, illness, suffering, medical treatment, healing, and death. The course also considers spiritual questions that often arise for patients and families (and for doctors) during illness, including questions about evil, suffering, and tragic choices.

Learning objectives: Participants in this course will be able to:

• Understand major faith traditions' basic beliefs and practices as these relate to health, illness, suffering, medical care, healing, and death
• Use cases and texts to explore, compare, and contrast how different religious communities respond to moral dilemmas in health care, such as reproductive choices, withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging treatments, cross-cultural medicine and ethics, and physician-assisted dying and euthanasia
• Examine religious communities' major sources of authority, fundamental theological convictions, basic moral norms, and patterns of moral reasoning
• Examine their own religious/spiritual heritage and background
• Reflect on the ways their own belief system might influence their medical identity and practice
• Propose and prepare a paper and present it to the class

The course meets three times a week in seminars of two to three hours each. Faculty from the University of Virginia's Department of Religious Studies and the School of Medicine lead the sessions and there is much lively discussion. In consultation with the course director, each student completes short writing assignments related to the course work; students write and present a longer paper at the end of the course. Participants also attend Medical Center Hour.

Readings may include The Park Ridge Center's brochures on particular faith traditions (1996-1997); Margaret Mohrmann, M.D., Medicine as Ministry (1996); selections from Warren T. Reich, ed., Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 2nd ed. (1995); Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (1997); and short articles from the medical literature.
This description is a general overview. The instructor will establish the schedule and particular requirements at the time of the course.