I have recently seen at close hand the work a busy acute hospital having to deal with an older person suffering multiple challenges to well-being caused in the main by intense confusion as a result of the Alzheimer’s disease. The result was shocking and frustrating. Although,of course, a one-off situation which was intensified by my own sense of powerlessness and pain at the way this person was treated – I suspect that this experience may well be replicated across the UK. We keep on being told that the NHS is in crisis principally for financial reasons but the central organising question this book suggests that there challenges are also moral : it asks is how we care for vulnerable people in such a way as to deepen compassion and alleviate suffering.

Fo me, this book came at the right time and Andrew Sloane deserves gratitude and praise for a powerful narrative that asked this question: can the focus of modern medicine change? The implication is that if it does not its very soul is in jeopardy. In the light of my own experience the reader will understand why this plea resonated so deeply and profoundly in my soul.

To return to the anecdotal –  I remember during my time teaching at the Birmingham University medical school exploring with groups of students how far their ethical teaching and curriculum help them make decisions. Since those teaching days a great deal of attention has been given to public and academic debate about medical and bioethical issues. Those groups of students and young doctors taught me that they relied as much on intuition (I need to respond quickly and so do what I feel is right) as much as the body of knowledge oclassified as medical ethics.  Sloane takes one step back from the issue of the relationship between theory and practice and asks his reader to explore the nature of medicine and its role in human community.

The  nine chapters seek to put theology to work by offering a framework of Christian philosophical and theological thinking which might enable us to understand the nature and purposes of medicine and its role in a Christian understanding of human society.

So what does the book do?

First it presents a description of the contexts in which medicine is practiced in the early 21st century, identifying key problems and challenges that medicine must address. It then turns to issues in contemporary bioethics, demonstrating how the debate is rooted in conflicting visions of the nature of medicine (and so human existence). This leads to a discussion of some of the philosophical and theological resources currently available for those who would reflect ‘Christianly’ on medicine.

The core of the text attempts to articulate a Christian view of medicine as a moral practice which might be shaped by a Christian social vision and a number of key theological commitments.

The book concludes with some powerful pedagogical reflections (pp 178 ff ). First Sloane asks that if it is the case that medicine is an expression of a community solidarity with those whose vulnerability is exposed and if its goal is to express appropriate forms of care for the frail then we should rethink how we train doctors. In terms of medical epistemology, the internal goods of medicine and their relationship to other goals always threaten to distort or corrupt the practice of medicine. And in this we all need to take responsibility in relation to our wildly unrealistic expectations about what medicine can deliver.

A final theme, and possibly to be developed in his future writing lies, in the embodied nature of medicine. If we are ‘knowing bodies’ then doctors in partnership with their patients need to understand what is going on in the body: to listen carefully to the story of our bodies as to discern both what matters and how we might embrace frailty and nurture wholeness. The undue focus on investigations, the obsession with tasks and performance  both detract from the human element of the clinical encounter and (in Sloane’s view) wrongly understand the nature and goals of medical knowledge. This reflects an ongoing interest in a number of public bodies in the UK concerning the medical humanities and how these might be built into a more holistic approach of nurturing both medicine and the medical profession. Medical paternalism and powerful self protecting  professionalism needs to be challenged if the world of medicine is to be re-engaged and transformed. However this will require from us that we reconfigure what medicine can and cannot do for us.

This is a stimulating and enriching book. It is inevitably stronger on theory rather than practice but its call and argument is clear and convincing.It deserves to be picked up and developed by those of us who seek wholeness and all those professional groups that are tasked to care for those in need.

I hope to use some of this work in our future learning at Sarum College ( ) and particularly in the Sarum Centre for Human Flourishing.


James Woodward

Principal Sarum College



Diocese of Bath and Wells

Diocesan Healing Group event





Saturday, 7th March 2015


Healthcare is increasingly driven by clinical outcomes, budgets, targets and political constraints. This is at the expense of whole-person care and personal well-being – for both healthcare professionals and patients alike. Could the Church and other Faith Communities collaborate better with Healthcare to remedy this dis-ease?


The purpose of the conference is to explore the meaning of healing and the interface between Healthcare and Faith Communities in general, and the Christian Healing Ministry in particular. Promoting a common understanding, shared goals, and a closer relationship between people with different roles in healthcare and healing — medical, pastoral, social and spiritual – we’ll ask whether and how these might be better integrated and ultimately, how to reconcile the physical and spiritual in healthcare.


The event is open to all – healthcare professionals, clergy, lay members of our congregations and healing teams, and anyone interested in health and healing – a programme in which all can participate; teaching, learning from one another, encouraging, and, we hope, inspiring.

Keynote Speakers


Bishop Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton, Conference Chairman


Revd. Dr. Jeremy Swayne, Chairman, Diocesan Healing Advisory Group

The Language of Healing — A retired doctor, and author of “Remodelling Medicine”, Jeremy Swayne will explore the way we talk about healing, what we mean by the word and how we use it in various contexts; and what are ‘natural’ healing, ‘holistic’ healthcare, and ‘integrative’ medicine.


Professor Paul Dieppe, Professor of Health and Wellbeing, Exeter University; former Dean, Bristol University Medical School

The Landscape of Healing – Paul Dieppe will draw  on his research to speak on the diverse manifestations of ‘healing’ and the work of ‘healers’ in our own and other cultures.


Revd. Canon Dr. James Woodward, Canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Encountering Illness, Encountering Healing – James Woodward will speak from his experience of chaplaincy and pastoral theology about finding healing through illness, and the role of the church in mediating this.


Dr. Ross Bryson, Birmingham General Practitioner and pioneer of GP chaplaincy

Whole person general practice – Ross Bryson will examine healing as an aspiration and a reality in everyday primary care, and in the life of the local community.


Workshop Themes

  • Healing the medical culture: Cum scientia caritas; the patient, not the cure
  • Illness as the agent of healing: chaplaincy; end of life care; healing present wounds rooted in the past
  • Reconciliation and justice: healing in a broken world
  • Whole person general practice; care in the community
  • Creation healed: health, healing and the environment; our responsibility for ourselves and our world
  • A healing Church: healing prayer, healing presence; changing lives, changing communitiesAccreditationFor doctors, accreditation will be offered by the Somerset GP Educational TrustVenueYeovil has train stations on the Waterloo-Exeter and Gloucester-Bristol-Weymouth lines; The conference will be a full day event with lunch providedAfter February 7th – £30.00For enquiries or to register interest, please contact Josie Halla   details and full registration in early January
  • Early bird registration, by February 7th – £20.00
  • Cost
  • and bus connections from Bristol (via Wells), Taunton, and other points in Somerset
  • Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre, Yeovil
  • The conference will be eligible for inclusion in CPD portfolios



On Moral Medicine:  Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics

Edited by M. Therese Lysaught and Joseph J. Cotva Jr. With Stephen E. Lammers and Allen Verhey

Publisher: Erdmans Michigan 3rd Edition 2012, 1,162 pp. ISBN:  978-0-8028-6601-1 no price marked


This book has been an important resource for those teaching and learning about bio-ethics.  This new edition offers new topics not previously considered:  children, people with mental illness, older people.

There are 156 chapters which take up 1,162 pages.  The book is produced in a large format but is clearly printed.

The chapters are organised in to six sections.  The first section deals with method and discusses the relationship between religion and medicine and theological and medical ethics.  The second section deals with Christianity and the social practice of healthcare in eight sections as a number of writers take us through the relationship of Christianity to social responsibility.  In in chapter three the reader is reminded of the inextricable relationship between Christianity and human wellbeing and flourishing.  In chapter four, six sections explore some key areas of practice including parish nursing.  In section three entitle ‘patients and professionals’ we are asked to explore the nature of professions; the patient physician relationship; the nature of personhood and embodiment and the care of patients and their suffering.

In section four we look at mental illness, ageing, disability, research ethics and stem cell research.  The final two sections (section five ‘the beginning of life’ and section seven ‘the end of life’ deal with the sanctity of life; contraception; assisted reproductive technology; abortion; genetics and a range of issues associated with our understanding of the nature and choices that we may or may not have around death).

There is no index to this volume.  The editors demonstrate a sophisticated and practical understanding of the nature of teaching and in this area the complex inter-relationships between theory and pastoral practice.  This skill is demonstrated in the quality and consistency of the writing and the ways in which each of the individual authors pay careful attention to the literature and constantly push their reader on into further areas for study and research.

The English reader ought to be aware of the significant differences in both medicine and religion between America and Europe.  However this should not detract from the richness and usefulness of theological reflection that is present in this volume as the individual authors struggle with how best to make sense of a range of ethical issues.  In an ever secular culture, and this is particularly true of the teaching of medical ethics in this country, this volume demonstrates the need for those working in health and social care to be open to what theology may offer in the generation of wisdom.

Theology too may benefit from an opening up to the tremendous creativity that has been demonstrated as the 20th Century has witnessed a biological revolution as profound as the industrial revolution of the 18th Century.   The Church might be challenged to move  out of its natural comfort zones into listening and learning to the way in which science has posed all kinds of issues about freedom and autonomy in new developments. The question that is consistent in the book is how our reason, loyalties and identities within the faith communities might play their part in working with others to deliver a vision of human flourishing.  Nowhere more is the voices of theology needed than in the current discussion about mortality and what choices individuals and communities may have at the end of life.

This is somewhat of a model of a book in all kinds of areas.  The first is it offers a model of excellence about how best to organise and deliver a textbook.  The second is that it offers some important modelling of interdisciplinary conversation where theological reflection is the beating heart of an attempt to understand and in what way medicine might be moral.  Thirdly it commits itself always and on every page to the reader through its quality of learning and clarity of writing.