Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Combating the Passion of Accidie (Sloth) 3 — Medical Issues

There are some illnesses that bring on lassitude in a person. Hence, before a monk has to give an account of his accidie or sloth, it would be well for him to be checked medically for any psychological or physical ailments.

We know of a case where the monk was found to have a glandular condition that was bringing on a sense of lassitude. It was only through a routine medical screening in a routine check-up that this was found.

Such medical conditions could be responsible for other ‘passions’ in a monk, such as hyperactivity, sorrow or other such conditions.

In general, in the monastery, there should be a proper medical attendance on all the monks, with regular checkups. In a monastery, the Spiritual Father of the monk or nun has the ultimate responsibility for the monk’s or nun’s medical well-being. He must be well-informed of the medical condition of the monk’s in his spiritual charge. This matter is addressed in one of St Basil the Great’s Shorter Rules, near the end of the set. However, in some Western countries, there may be legal issues in applying St Basil’s counsel.

It would be most appropriate if one of the monks were a doctor, but this is not always possible in a monastery, for obvious reasons. The next best thing would be for the monastery to have a working relationship with an external doctor who is both medically well-qualified and a pious Orthodox, so that the doctor can appreciate the special circumstances of a monk’s or nun’s lifestyle. The last possibility is to have a working relationship with a medically well-qualified external doctor who is not a pious Orthodox. Even in the case where the monastery is making use of a clinic, it is best if there is continuity of personnel of the clinic in the medical treatment of the monks and nuns.

The monastery will have to take account of both the need for and the possibilities of payment for the monks’ or nuns’ medical care. This might involve medical insurance.

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