The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Red Medicine, Blue Medicine: Pluralism and the Future of Healthcare
This month, Drs. Curlin and Hall examine the complicated interaction between modern medicine and the faith commitments of both patients and doctors.
The further conventional medicine extends beyond its original domain of “obvious” medical problems, the further it ventures into areas about which different moral traditions disagree. At the center of medical practice, there is substantial inter-traditional consensus that it is a prima facie good to apply conventional medicine’s technical powers to the treatment of acute, severe, organic illnesses. Yet on the margins there is marked disagreement regarding whether and how biomedical science should be applied to regulate sexual function and reproduction, employ life-sustaining technology in the end-of-life context, enhance physical and mental capacities, reshape bodily form, modify human appetites, and control behaviors.
In the contemporary medical context, different moral traditions may agree about the range of legitimate clinical strategies, but disagree about which is to be recommended in a given moment. For example, physicians from different moral traditions may agree that pharmacological therapy, referral to a psychologist, and referral to a clergy person are all legitimate ways of responding to symptoms of what conventional medicine calls “depression,” yet physicians of one moral tradition may be much more likely than those of another to recommend one of the clinical strategies in a given case.
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