The Order of Widows: What the Early Church Can Teach Us about Older Women and Health Care

Christian Bioethics 11 (1):11-34 (2005)
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Abstract

This article argues that the early Christian ?order of widows? provides a fruitful model for Christian ethicists struggling to address the medical and social problems of elderly women today. After outlining the precarious state of the ?almanah? - or widow - in biblical times, it describes the emergence of the order of widows in the early Church. Turning to the contemporary situation, it argues that demographics both in the United States and around the globe suggest that meeting the needs of elderly women will become an enormous challenge in the years to come. The order of widows illustrates a three-fold conception of solidarity that has immediate implications today. That conception of solidarity encourages us: 1) to identify the unique medical needs of elderly women (e.g., osteoporosis); 2) to find ways of overcoming their societal isolation, which can increase their risk of medical and psychological problems; and 3) to develop strategies for enabling them to remain contributing members of the community for as long as possible. This essay is a slightly revised version of a keynote address given by the author at a conference on ?Women?s Health and Human Rights? held in Rome, Italy in February 1998 and sponsored by the Vatican, Georgetown University, and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. The proceedings of that conference were published in Italy by the Società Editrice Universo-Roma in a volume entitled Women?s Health Issues, edited by Spagnolo and Gambino (2003)

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References found in this work

The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World.Elaine Scarry - 1985 - New York: Oxford University Press USA.
The patient as person.Paul Ramsey - 1970 - New Haven,: Yale University Press.
The Patient as Person.Paul Ramsey & Catherine Lyons - 1973 - Religious Studies 9 (1):114-115.
How we die: reflections on life's final chapter.Sherwin B. Nuland - 1994 - New York: Published by Random House Large Print in association with Alfred A. Knopf.

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