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Voices Online Edition
Advent 2000
Volume XV, No. 4

Pope John Paul II to health care workers
Evaluate Medical Decisions Using Ethical Criteria

Medicine can avoid becoming "an instrument of manipulation and death" only if it focuses on the "human being with his individual dignity", Pope John Paul II told participants in a Vatican conference,"Health and Society", on November 17, 2000.

He urged health care workers to "do all in your power to raise awareness in the community, in national health care systems and in those in charge of them" so that all resources for medical research and technology have as their objective "the integral service of life".

The pope received the group in an audience in the Synod Hall during the 15th international conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.

He stressed the importance of "recovering certain criteria of ethical and anthropological discernment that enable us to evaluate whether the choices made in medicine and health care are truly tailored to man, whom they must serve".

"Medicine which seeks principally to enrich its knowledge with a view to its own technological efficiency," he continued, "would betray its original ethos and open the door to harmful developments. Only by serving man's integral well-being, can medicine contribute to his progress and happiness and not become an instrument of manipulation and death".

The Holy Father referred to the necessity of recognizing ethical norms "at whose center lies the human being with his individual dignity. Respect for his right to be born, live and die with dignity constitutes the basic imperative from which the practice of medicine must draw its inspiration. Do all in your power to raise awareness in the community, in national health care systems and in those in charge of them, in order that the considerable resources earmarked for research and technology always have the integral service of life as their objective".

Tending the sick, he stressed, means "approaching the suffering person and not simply attending a sick body. This is why health care workers are asked to make a commitment that has the nature of a vocation.... Giving the sick and their families reasons for hope in the face of the pressing questions that assail them, that is your mission. The Church is near you and shares with you this passionate service to life".

The pope mentioned that during the conference, reflection had been given to health conditions in certain regions of the world, "where there is a lack of policies supporting primary care itself".

The Holy Father concluded his message to the conference by a renewed call to the leaders of nations "that, as much as possible, they may favor the conditions appropriate for a resolution of such dramatic situations of injustice and marginalization".

Source: Vatican Information Service

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