Care for the whole person

A message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Ethics) Professor Hayden Ramsay:

 Having reached a certain age and stage in the male lifecycle, I’m trying intermittent fasting this month: new year, new projects, resolutions etc. It will probably last four weeks! As I have a watching brief for ethics at ACU, it’s interesting to note how often the human body features in our work and our thinking.

That should probably be expected in a Christian institution. Christianity is the religion with the daring claim that God has a body – that God went through babyhood, youth, and was killed, though later resurrected. Our hospitals, schools, welfare system and universities are constructed around an ideal of human worth or dignity that’s very much body based. Our ethics in particular signal that reverence and also try to increase the watchful care of self and others that good body-thinking should include.

Each faculty and institute of ACU studies one aspect at least of the human person – health, knowledge, culture, work and business, meaning and religion. But the university as a whole has the job of putting all our human “faculties” together so as to care for the whole, embodied person and how we act individually or in community.

In the Ethics Portfolio we specifically do this through our work on bioethics, corporate ethics, Church ethics and policy ethics. I’m delighted that this month sees the beginning of a new funding agreement for the Plunkett Centre for Ethics, extending our important partnerships with St Vincent’s, both Public and Private, in Sydney, the Mater in Sydney, Calvary Healthcare in all five jurisdictions on the east coast, and now adding the Mercy Hospital and Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne.

Bioethics is the ethics of life – specifically, healthcare by which human life is protected and sick persons are cured and cared for. There is great temptation in our device-drenched world to focus on body image, perfection, comparison. I think this is almost always disastrous. Our bioethics institutes remind us that it’s bodily health – health in the broadest sense – that matters. There’s nothing wrong with seeking self-perfection – but the trick is to avoid a superficial approach to life or an ego that starts to see our friends as rivals and all strangers as threats. I’ll try to keep my (no doubt brief!) intermittent fast to a real concern for health and try to approach it as we should all good things: with a combination of seriousness and a little chuckle. There’s nothing worse in our difficult lives than people who take themselves too seriously.

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