Meeting of Catholic Doctors Archdiocese of Bangalore

A meeting of Catholic doctors was held on Sunday, 19 November under the aegis of the Bioethics Forum, Archdiocese of Bangalore. The doctors gathered at 9:30 am in the chapel of the St. Joseph’s Boys School, Museum Road for Mass presided by Rev. Fr. Glen Mascarenhas. The meeting coincided with the first World Day of the Poor, Fr. Mascarenhas in his homily highlighted the poverty in healthcare that existed in our country. Justice demands that healthcare be made available for all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

After Mass the doctors assembled at the air conditioned auditorium for the meeting. It was encouraging to note that there were 85 doctors in attendance. The doctors gathering comprised a varied cross section of doctors from across the city, including private practitioners, general practitioners, consultants, professors, and eminent opinion leaders. A number of institutions was also represented including, St, John’s Medical College, St. Martha’s Hospital, St. Philomena’s Hospital, Hosmat Hospital, Mallya Hospital, Fortis Hospital and Apollo Hospital.

Fr. Christopher Vimalraj, coordinator of the Bioethics Forum, welcomed the gathering. He said that many doctors within and outside the Bioethics Forum expressed the need for a Catholic Doctors’ Forum. There existed such a forum called the St. Luke’s Guild, which has become defunct since the mid-eighties. Therefore, after considerable deliberations within the Bioethics Forum this meeting was conceived, planned and made possible under the patronage of the Archbishop. Dr. Mario Vaz, member of the Bioethics Forum outlined the need for such a forum. Firstly, for Catholic doctors to understand and live their faith in their practice, to have a common platform to share common concerns, to support one another in facing ethical dilemmas, and importantly to reach out to the poorer patients. Since the Bioethics Forum was keen to allow doctors to express their opinions and purposes of such a gathering a feedback form was distributed to all participants to elicit their views on the above issues. At the tea break they were encouraged to discuss among themselves, what form the forum would take, what activities would be involved and how to go about it.

When the meeting reconvened, Dr.Sunita Simon, member of the Bioethics Forum invited a few of the doctors to opine and give voice on whether or not there was a need for a Doctors’ Forum and what activities and issues could they deal with. The doctors were unanimous in voicing the need for a doctor’s forum.

Dr. Thomas Chandy felt that it was good to have a doctors’ forum as it would give the Catholic doctors a voice, more political say in what is happening in medical practice. Having such a forum would promote networking, facilitate conduct of medical camps, jobs for young Catholic doctors and could provide assistance on ethical and legal issues faced by doctors.

Dr. G.D. Ravindran agreed that it was good idea to have a doctors’ forum as it would help doctors relate to the teachings of the Church in our current scenario; for instance, elimination of poverty and how doctors could play a role in that. It could also serve in increasing the spiritual aspects of doctors practice by having retreats meant specifically for doctors and throwing light on new teachings and doctrine that the Holy Father comes out with.

Dr. Maya Mascarenhas spoke about St. Luke’s Guild and how it was started to serve a similar need for doctors. Though it has been dormant, we could explore the possibility of reviving it. It was important that any forum ought to have a specific structure to enable proper functioning. The forum would definitely enable doctors to put their faith in practice at a point of time when most doctors seem to be apologetic about their faith.

Dr. John Tharakan mentioned that the current time was a time of conflict in the values, commercialisation and perception of how doctors function when Christian values can make a big difference and hence it is an opportune time to have a Catholic doctors’ forum. Health care and education is evolving rapidly and it becomes more important that a forum of this nature enables doctors to cope better with the changing times in accordance with our faith.

Dr. Johnson Pradeep felt it was important to have a forum, which could help doctors in terms of their spiritual development and serve as a network to provide doctors especially in the rural areas.

Dr. Geraldine mentioned that as a doctor working in a government setting it was very challenging to practice according to the teachings of the church. A Catholic doctors’ forum would definitely play a role in addressing concerns related to contraception, legal abortion, sterilization, artificial reproduction and euthanasia, which has become very common.

Dr. Chico mentioned the key role that doctors could play due to the credibility they enjoyed to evangelise among their patients.

His Grace Archbishop Dr. Bernard Moras then spoke about how in current times a number of Catholics including clergy and religious neither have the knowledge or courage to speak about our Catholic ethics and values. He mentioned how Fr. Christopher Vimalraj started the Bioethics Forum comprising a few doctors, nurses, bioethicists and pastoral healthcare workers with the goal of addressing ethical problems at the practical level in line with the teachings of the Church. The Bangalore Archdiocese has always encouraged the formation of professional fora for lawyers, engineers and doctors so that the Church could use their talents for the good of the people. His Grace said that we should explore the possibility of either setting up a doctors’ forum independently under the Archdiocese or revive St. Luke’s Guild, which has been dormant for a three decades. Doctors have a vocation and not just a profession to take care of the body and soul. Doctors can serve the church and help us love not just in words but in deeds. His Grace mentioned his experience where Catholic doctors have never said no to poor patients as Christ comes in the form of the poor. He suggested that the doctors’ forum with minimum norms be established at the diocesan level first, before considering a forum for the Karnataka Bishops’ Council or at the National Level.His Grace Archbishop Moras thanked all the doctors for coming in such large numbers on a Sunday and ended the meeting with a solemn blessing.

Dr, G. D. Ravidran, member of the Bioethics Forum proposed the vote of thanks. A special word of thanks to Fr. Joseph Anthony s. j., Rector Jesuit Nivas for gratuitous use of their facilities.