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Tropes, Territories and Competing

Over 30 scholars from North America, Europe, South Asia, and Australasia will come together for an interdisciplinary Tamil Studies conference to be held at Trinity College, University of Toronto on May 11-14, 2006. All attendees are required to register for admission.

Joseph Chandrakanthan

Clinical Ethicist, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto
Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

When Two Cultures Collide at Bed-Side:
Religio-cultural Perspectives on Tamil Ethic of Care

Friday, May 12, 2006 | 14:30 - 16:30 EST

As a country of immigrants, Canada and more specifically the city of Toronto has one of the world’s largest ethnic and culturally diverse populations. State repressions, drought, famine, and crippling forms of economic deprivations coupled with war and violence have forced large numbers of people as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to many western and North American capitals to look for safety, security, and economic prosperity.

The principles and norms applied in clinical ethics consultations in North America are largely drawn from the Judeo-Christian and western ethical practices and religious values. From a juridical perspective these are centered on the exercise of autonomy of the patient as an individual whose rights and duties are also guaranteed by the State. While the universalism enshrined in these principles are of global ethical importance, in their application and illustration they manifest a particular western worldview of socio-political evolution.

Based on case examples this presentation will analyze the challenges of cross-cultural trans-cultural and meta-cultural care particularly in relation to the process of decision-making in designing care plans especially in the context of terminal illnesses, palliative sedation and withdrawing and withholding of treatment and other complex-care decisions that impinge on one’s religious, ethical and cultural predicaments. The importance of integrating pluri-religious ethical insights in the larger context of care and of incorporating the cultural modes of care in the delivery of care will be explored against the backdrop of the dilemmas and issues faced by they many religious and cultural groups. The meaning and significance of illness as a corporate or familial experience and the process of ailing and especially of dying as a social ritual will be further elucidated to deepen the importance of understanding the ethical implications of cure and care in a multi-cultural, pluri-religious milieu. The limitations implied in the process of interpretation/ explanation in the context of Doctor-patient relationship will also be explored.

A serious and particularly terminal illness is also an emotionally charged context for the patient as well as for the members of the family and friends of the one who is facing the end of his/her life. Interpersonal bonds their depth and degree, the suddenness of the illness, the age of the patient, the intensity of relationships with their cultural ramifications should therefore be approached with deep sensitivity and compassion from, the part of the care-giver. This presentation will emphasize these issues of care.

Dr. Chandrakanthan has held major academic appointments including, Head of the Department of Christian and Islamic Civilizations, University of Jaffna (1980 -1986); Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics, Concordia University (1996-1999). He has presented papers at a number of national and international conferences and published ten books and over 50 articles in issues related Christian Theology, Ethics, Human Rights and inter-religious spirituality.