The second day of the Adventist Bioethics Conference on “Ethics of Faithfulness for 21st Century Adventist Healthcare” began with Dr. Gerald Winslow welcoming attendees with a proverb he heard on a trip to an African country: “You Europeans have watches,” said his host, “but we have time.” We have time, too, promised Winslow as he outlined the sessions for the day.
The first plenary session on “Mission and Ethics in Adventist Healthcare” was presented by Dr. Ted Hamilton, Senior Vice President for Mission and Ministry for the Adventist Health System, whose story line was built around the phone call he frequently gets from irate church members (“Always male, never female!”) who want to know why Adventist hospitals perform abortions. When the caller pauses for breath, Hamilton assures him that abortions on demand are never performed, but, following moral guidelines developed by Adventist ethicists and adopted by the world church, abortions are provided for serious threats to the mother’s life, for congenital birth defects that would result in an early death or severe disorders, and instances of rape or incest.
Reasons - Hamilton - Balance - Justice - Mercy
“The reasons we are doing this,” noted Hamilton, “are for a balance of justice and mercy.” These are issues of layered complexity, he said, and “At the end of the day it is up to the mother, perhaps in consultation with her doctor, maybe her pastor, perhaps the chaplain.” Quoting theologian and ethicist Miroslav Voth, Hamilton said, “A mother is not God, only a fragile human being living in a fragile world.”
Dr. Hamilton spoke about the influence—and responsibility—that Adventist hospitals have. “Who is responsible for the health of Central Florida?” he asked. “We have 27 hospitals in that area and 60% market share on the east coast.” When public health issues flare up, the Adventist hospital system has to step up and lead...
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