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Catholicism and the Neonatal Context 

Catholicism and the Neonatal Context
Catholicism and the Neonatal Context
Religion and Ethics in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

M. Therese Lysaught


Roman Catholics comprise the largest single denomination in the United States and are the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit healthcare providers. Yet, there is little or no available literature to assist neonatal caregivers in understanding how religious beliefs and values might influence parents’ responses to the challenges posed by their newborn’s care. Equally, there is little or no available literature on the academic or pastoral side addressing questions of neonatal medicine from a theological perspective. This chapter addresses how Roman Catholic teachings might affect the ways in which parents and caregivers make treatment decisions. It examines the neonatal context in light of five aspects of Catholic teaching—the dignity of the human person, patient decision making, withholding and withdrawing treatment, palliative care, and Catholic social thought—as well as three important Catholic practices—baptism, the anointing of the sick, and the care of babies’ bodies, living and dead.

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