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Body Soul Unity


The soul animates the body and forms our personhood.

The human person is a creature unlike any other. We’re a collection of bones, joints, systems and tissues, but we’re so much more. There’s something deeper; there’s something about us that goes beyond just our physical body. It’s this something more that raises our dignity to a higher level. It’s what demands a greater standard of care.

We each have within our bodies a soul. This soul is not a physical structure like the rest of our corpus, but an enduring principle of life. The soul is that which animates the body. It’s the central hub that, in conjunction with our body and our intellect, forms our personhood. The integration between soul and body is so tight, so complete, that disintegration is only possible at the moment of death.

The existence of this soul naturally bubbles up in our consciousness as we contemplate the great questions in life. When I ask, “Who am I?,” rarely do I respond, “Two femurs, connective tissue, and thirty-three vertebrae.” Rather, I’m more likely to identify my different roles in life such as husband or father. I might go further and identify some of my hobbies, like the fact that I’m a pilot who flies airplanes. I could take that question anywhere, but seldom would it be an inventory of the parts that make up my human body. This points to the existence of something more than just the structures of the brain or the chemical and electrical processes that sustain my existence.

The Importance of Recognition
This body soul unity is important because it preserves the dignity of the human person. It prevents science from blindly using, mutilating, and consuming human persons in the pursuit of its goals. After all, without restraint, research and treatments would tend towards success and advancement at any cost, human or otherwise. The body soul unity keeps both science and medicine in the service of human life.

When a person is treated as a person and not just a body, treatment decisions are different. The relative chances of success or failure are merely part of the conversation. What are the implications for the patient’s life? Medically the treatment may be indicated, but is this even something that the patient would like to undergo?

Retaining this focus on the person, as opposed to an obsession with the condition, personalizes healthcare. It keeps research and clinical treatments aiming at improving outcomes in conjunction with patient wishes.

The soul makes the human person that much more awe-inspiring. More than a body, more than a rational creature, the human person is a unique individual who deserves to be loved, cared for, and cherished.

The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature. CCC365

The Supreme Benefit
The supreme benefit of recognizing body soul unity is that it allows for us to maintain respect for the human person in the presence of deficiency and disorder. Since a human person is more than just their extremities, we treat amputees with the same dignity and respect as persons with all of their limbs. We treat the mentally disabled and the emotionally deficient in the same manner as those persons who possess their full faculties.

When the human person is more than just a body, we open up the avenue of respect to the entire human race with no person excluded.

About the Author

CHET COLLINS is a full-time sidekick to three small humans. He gets his best creative work done during their nap time. He’s had a keen interest in bioethics since 2003.

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