Manual of Catholic Medical Ethics – Chapter VII

on-line edition as of 2023 edited by Willem J. cardinal Eijk, MD PhD STL, Lambert J.M. Hendriks, PhD STD and prof FransJ. van Ittersum, MD PhD MSc

Ⓒ Katholieke Stichting Medische Ethiek 2014 - 2024

VII. Social Aspects of Healthcare – Introduction

J.A. Raymakers, F.J. van Ittersum

The primary duty of government is to guarantee the Common Good. According to Catholic social doctrine this is not the common interest of the state or the society. The Common Good implies the whole of the conditions necessary for individuals and groups to develop themselves and to reach their goals. The care for the Common Good requires in the first place striving for an organization and structure of the community which enable its members to develop their possibilities and talents as human persons in an optimal way. According to Catholic social doctrine the Common Good has its final goal in the human person. It implies that the Common Good is much more than the total sum of all particular interests, because human beings share certain interests on the basis of their common nature. Moreover, it does not only concern the realization of the natural end, but also that of the supernatural end of the members of the community, i.e. strengthening their being the likeness of God and reaching beatific vision in eternal life, which they all have in common (cf. Gaudium et spes n. 26).

The relationship between the Common Good and the Good or wellbeing of human persons who are members of the community, is directly connected with what the human person and the human community are: the image of God, who is a community of three persons in himself (cf. Chapter I.2.2.5.). The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, whereas remaining unique Persons and in their mutual total gift to each other in love ends in themselves, are one God. Analogically, the human person is one and unrepeatable, whereas at the same time he has to turn to the community (cf. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace n. 34).

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the Common Good comprehends the following three elements:

  1. In the first place, the Common Good supposes the respect for the person, which implies that his fundamental and inalienable rights are respected (CCC n. 1907).
  2. Furthermore, the Common Good requires the social wellbeing and the development of the community in itself. Within this framework authorities have the competence to take decisions in order to solve conflicts, rising as a consequence of different particular interests. Moreover, authorities should take care that everyone disposes of the means necessary for a really humane existence: food, clothing, healthcare, labor, education, and culture, the information needed and the right to found a family (CCC n. 1908).
  3. Thirdly, the Common Good implies peace (CCC n. 1909).

From the perspective of the Common Good, there is no doubt that the government has a task in the organization of healthcare, which implies guaranteeing equal access to it, financing it and facilitating, maintaining, and monitoring the education and training of healthcare professions (see this Chapter 1.). The government also has a responsibility in facilitating, maintaining and monitoring the education and training of healthcare professionals. Moreover, government has to guarantee by law that secrecy in healthcare is guaranteed and to stipulate in which way healthcare professionals should deal with private medical information (this Chapter 2.). In practice, the extent of these responsibilities will vary according to the political climate. As in many domains, a certain balance between private initiative and public intervention is necessary.