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Ethical & Religious Directives

Promulgated by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services serve as a normative guide for all Catholic-sponsored health care systems. The Ethical and Religious Directives, often called the ERD, provide Catholic health care systems with authoritative guidance and instruction on matters central to the Catholic health care ministry.

The Ethical and Religious Directives is made up of a preamble, introduction and six parts, each with an important theological introduction, followed by numbered directives. Some themes from the six parts are:

The Social Responsibility of Catholic Health Care Services

  • Human dignity and sacredness of human life
  • Rights of the human person, including right to adequate health care
  • Biblical mandate to care for the poor, including social advocacy
  • Advancing the common good and stewardship of resources

The Pastoral and Spiritual Responsibility of Catholic Health Care

  • Community of healing and compassion
  • Embracing physical, psychological, social, spiritual dimension of the human person
  • Spiritual care as encompassing a full range of spiritual services

The Professional-Patient Relationship

  • Interpersonal relationship requiring mutual respect, trust, honesty and confidentiality
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Participation in informed decision-making

Issues in Care for the Beginning of Life

  • Sanctity of human life from conception to natural death
  • Responsible parenthood
  • Care of women and children

Issues in Care for the Dying

  • Compassion and care for the dying
  • Pain management, spiritual care, respect and love
  • Christian meaning of life, suffering and death

Forming New Partnerships

  • Maintaining integrity of mission
  • Providing witness to religious and ethical commitments
  • Advancing care for the poor and responsible stewardship

For the full text of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, go to