My grandfather was accidentally stabbed in the leg by his sister when he was around seven years old. His family for many reasons, including lack of funds and lack of trust in medicine, did not take my grandpa to the hospital until an infection has spread too far.
When he was finally taken to the hospital, my grandpa was then separated from his family and stripped of his clothes. To replace his possessions, they provided him with one of those hospital gowns, cause you and I know how helpful those are to withhold the little human dignity you have left. And to make matters worse, they put him into a ward full of other boys with dissimilar ailments.
They did save my grandfather’s life, but they did not save his leg. Till his last day, my grandpa was not too fond of the medical field. But can you blame him?
Imagine you had a traumatic injury, an injury that would put you up in a rehab hospital. Then after being stripped of your ability to walk, or care for yourself, you are then stripped of your privacy and put into a room full over other people to observe you in your physical, emotional and spiritual pain.
In a similar way, my grandfather was stripped of his human dignity. It is the role of Catholic health care to work to restore as much dignity as possible to each patient it sees.
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (ERDs) state: “Catholic health care has the responsibility to treat those in need in a way that respects the human dignity and eternal destiny of all” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018).
Human dignity is obviously restored through the physical treatments that Catholic health care provides patients. Treatments that give a patient their life and autonomy back. But there is a deeper call in this statement. A call to be attentive to the eternal destiny of all. To the fact that we are not merely physical, but have a soul, and spirit to attend to as well.
How are you attentive to “the human dignity and eternal destiny of all”?
What is one easy thing you can do to increase your attention to the full reality of a colleague, friend or patient this week?