Might Only Theology Save Medicine? Some Ideas from Ramsey

Bharat Ranganathan, University of Nebraska at Omaha

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Sage in Studies in Christian Ethics on October 22, 2016, available online: https://doi.org/10.1177/0953946816674152

Reuse restricted to noncommercial and no derivative uses.


In The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying, Jeffrey Bishop argues that contemporary medicine has (among other things) reduced the patient from a ‘subject’ to an ‘object’. He extends this charge to all corners of contemporary medicine. But in his book’s concluding chapter, ‘Anticipating Life’, he turns toward a constructive proposal, asking, in closing, ‘[m]ight it not be that only theology can save medicine?’ Toward answering Bishop’s query, I turn to the thought of Paul Ramsey. Ramsey is helpful because, in thinking through and responding to contemporary moral dilemmas, he begins with his theological commitments and thereby may avoid the reductive tendencies that Bishop argues affect contemporary medicine. Specifically, Ramsey’s account of the ‘patient as person’, I will argue, delimits what the medical endeavor may do and might offer resources to help save medicine.