Health Care Ethics In The Nursing Home Setting Or, The Moral Significance Of Emptying Bedpans -- By: Allan R. Bevere
ATJ 28 (1996) p. 29
Health Care Ethics In The Nursing Home Setting Or, The Moral Significance Of Emptying Bedpans
Allan Bevere (M.Div. - ATS, 1987) is a United Methodist pastor in northern Ohio and a Ph.D. student in New Testament ethics at Durham University.
I want to begin with a familiar story. I will not attempt to improve upon the story, as I doubt this is possible. But there is an often noticed but little expounded detail of the story which, I think, speaks to the moral commitment embodied in nursing home care.1
There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his inheritance in wild living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout the country, and he began to starve. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his field to feed his pigs. He was so hungry even the pods the pigs were eating looked tasty; but no one gave him anything to eat. But one day when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will leave and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves. “Quickly, bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:11–24).
ATJ 28 (1996) p. 30
The portion of this story important for my purposes is where the father seeing his son from a distance, rises up and runs to greet him. The significance of this detail should not be missed; for in the world of first-century Judea it was considered quite undignified for an elderly man to run.2 The elderly were worthy of respect and they were not expected to conform to anyone else’s schedule. What was clearly at work here was a...
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