Ethics Statements

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Suffering Position Statement

Suffering occurs when we perceive or actually experience a threat to or loss of our wholeness. Wholeness includes an individual's cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical conditions, which are inherently interrelated.

While pain is an important component of suffering, it may sometimes protect us. Suffering may even provide an opportunity to experience God's grace.

Suffering has a variety of causes and effects. Suffering may be the result of personal choices, or other's choices, or may come without obvious reason or explanation. Everyone suffers; particular instances of suffering are not necessarily the result of spiritual or moral failure.

Suffering may compel us to confront the meaning and purpose of our existence and to question the goodness and justice or even the existence of God.

CMDA endorses the historic commitment of the healing professions to the relief of suffering. Our model is the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 7:11-17 depicts Christ as responding to a grieving woman by recognizing her suffering, feeling compassion for her, comforting her and then alleviating her suffering. We are motivated to follow this model as we experience God's love.

It is essential for us to recognize both declared and non-declared suffering. This recognition involves sensitivity to the patient's cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical condition. This requires individual discernment and may be enhanced by the leading of the Holy Spirit. We should be cautious not to judge the validity or meaning of another's suffering.

Comforting includes listening and being present even as God listens to our prayers and is always with us. Listening and being present cannot be replaced by other attempts to alleviate suffering. While we recognize that God can and does bring good out of suffering, telling this to one who is suffering often does not bring comfort.

As Christian physicians and dentist, we use our technical and interpersonal skills to alleviate suffering. Since we acknowledge that physical conditions are not the only causes of suffering, physicians and dentists should cooperate with the patient's family and friends as well as other members of the health care team and pastoral care team to address all aspects of suffering.

In this life, our efforts to relieve suffering will be only partially effective, and complete victory over suffering will only be realized in God's new kingdom. Treatment to relieve suffering does not include euthanasia. (Please see statement on euthanasia.)

Approved by the CMDA House of Delegates
Passed unanimously
April 30, 1993. Danvers, Massachusetts

Download file Suffering Position Statement with References