Faith/Spirituality Forum: Behavior Modification
Behavior Modification QUESTION from Seraphine February 8, 2001 I want to know whether there are moral problems or not on behavior modification ( such as lobotomy, psychosurgery,chemotheraphy,psychotherapy, electrical stimualtion of the brain,aversion therapy, etc)according to catholic teaching.
Some people view that behavior modification as being manipulative and dehumanizing, and it also would undermine someone's autonomy and destroy his dignity. What's the catholic church opinion about this ?
Thank you so much for answering my question :)
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on April 26, 2001 Dear Miss Seraphine:
I am not aware of any Church document at the moment that specifically speaks to your question.
Certainly, as in all medical procedures, the Church would insist that the dignity of the human person be protected and respected.
Personally I would find electro-shock therapy to be a violation of human dignity. I have participated in that therapy in mental hospitals and find it barbaric. One expert mentioned that he would prefer lobotomy to EST are being more humane.
I would say that behavior modification without the person's consent would most likely be considered a violation of that person's dignity. Behavior modification techniques can be useful to change unwanted behavior. But the question arises -- what is unwanted behavior, and unwanted by whom?
As a society we need to be very careful in our definitions of socially unwanted behavior. Oftentimes people can live productive and fruitful lives even with odd behaviors that most of us might consider irritating and unwanted.
We might certainly place in the unwanted category behaviors that are destructive and dangerous to the lives of self or others (but even then we must be careful. Dare devils and stunt men behave in ways that some of us might consider crazy and self-destructive.'
Behaviors that threaten public safety and health would be another category that society has a right to be concerned about.
But the question remains that when we perform some of these more intrusive modification techniques are we doing it for the patient or for us? Is is REALLY needed? Are there any other ways to deal with the behavior? Does the patient give full and informed consent?
In general, as long as the treatment is protective and respectful to the dignity of the human person giving informed consent, then it should fall within moral parameters.
I'd have to do some more research to see if the Church has made any comments or decision pertaining to the specific medical procedures you mentioned.
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