The Pope Francis calls for bioethical standards to be respected in all countries

The Pope Francis calls for bioethical standards to be respected in all countries

Published on Jan 28, 2016

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Pope Francis met the body that advises the Italian parliament on bioethics. It’s a committee of experts from various religious and cultural backgrounds. The Pope reminded them of the key considerations that should guide their decisions.

Human Embryos Aren’t Disposable Material, Says Pope

In address to Italy’s national bioethics committee, calls for opposition to the ‘throwaway culture’

Baby Shoes

Pixabay CC0 – Alexas_Fotos

Pope Francis says that the disposal of human embryos and the treatment often given to the elderly and the infirm are marks of the throwaway culture in our society.

The Pope said this today when he received in audience members of Italy’s national bioethics committee.

The Holy Father noted how the committee has many times “addressed respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death, considering the person in his singularity, always as an end and never simply as a means.”

“This ethical principle is also fundamental in regard to the bio-technological applications in the medical field, which can never be used in a way that is harmful to human dignity, and even less be guided by industrial and commercial ends alone,” he added.

The Pontiff encouraged the committee to work in three areas:

1.The inter-disciplinary analysis of the causes of environmental degradation.

2. The subject of the disability and marginalization of vulnerable subjects in a society inclined to competition, to the acceleration of progress. He said this is the “challenge of opposing the throwaway culture, which has so many expressions today, among which is treating human embryos as disposable material, and also sick and elderly persons approaching death.”

3. An ever greater effort towards an international confrontation in view of a possible and desirable, even if complex, harmonization of the standard and rules of biological and medical activities, rules that recognize fundamental values and rights.

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-italian-national-committee-for-bioethics/

Pope’s Address to Italian National Committee for Bioethics

The ecclesial and the civil community meet in this area and are called to collaborate, according to their respective various competencies

A sky of pink flowers Ipe

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS – Difhe

This morning, Pope Francis received in audience members of the Italian National Committee for Bioethics.

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address.

* * *

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

I give my cordial welcome to each one of you, and I thank the President, Professor Casavola, for the courteous words with which he introduced our meeting.

I am happy to be able to express the Church’s appreciation for the fact that the National Committee for Bioethics has been instituted for the past 25 years in the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.  Noted by all is how sensitive the Church is to ethical subjects, but perhaps it is not as clear to all that the Church does not claim any privileged space in this field, rather, she is satisfied when the civil conscience is able to reflect, discern and work, at various levels, on the basis of free and open rationality and of the constitutive values of the person and of society. In fact, this responsible civil maturity is precisely the sign that the sowing of the Gospel — this yes, revealed and entrusted to the Church — has borne fruit, succeeding in promoting research of the true, the good and the beautiful in the complex human and ethical questions. In essence, it is about serving man, the whole man, all men and women, with particular attention and care – as was recalled – for the weakest and most disadvantaged subjects, that with difficulty try to make their voice heard, or still cannot or no longer can have it heard. The ecclesial and the civil community meet in this area and are called to collaborate, according to their respective various competencies.  Many times that Committee has addressed respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death, considering the person in his singularity, always as an end and never simply as a means. This ethical principle is also fundamental in regard to the bio-technological applications in the medical field, which can never be used in a way that is harmful to human dignity, and even less be guided by industrial and commercial ends alone.

Bioethics was born to confront, through a critical effort, the reasons and conditions required by the dignity of the human person with the developments of the sciences and of the biological and medical technologies, which, in their accelerated rhythm, risk losing every reference that is not useful and profitable.

How arduous it is sometimes to single out such reasons and in how many different ways attempts are made to argue them, evidenced by the opinions formulated by the National Committee for Bioethics. And therefore the demanding work of research of the ethical truth is ascribed to the merit of all those who have done so, all the more so in a context marked by relativism and not very trustworthy in the capacities of the human reason. You are aware that such research on complex bioethical problems is not easy and does not always reach speedily a harmonious conclusion; that it always requires humility and realism, and does not fear confrontation with different positions and that, finally, the witness given to truth contributes to the maturation of the conscience.

I would like to encourage your work, in particular, in some realms that I will briefly recall.

1.The inter-disciplinary analysis of the causes of environmental degradation. I hope that the Committee will be able to formulate guidelines in the fields that concern the biological sciences, to stimulate interventions of conservation, preservation and care of the environment. In this ambit, a comparison is opportune between the bio-centric and anthropocentric theories, in search of ways that recognize the correct centrality of man in respect of other living beings and of the whole environment, also to help define the inalienable conditions for the protection of the future generations. Once when I said this about protection of the future generations, a somewhat saddened and skeptical scientist answered me: “Tell me, Father, will there be any? “

2. The subject of the disability and marginalization of vulnerable subjects in a society inclined to competition, to the acceleration of progress. It is the challenge of opposing the throwaway culture, which has so many expressions today, among which is treating human embryos as disposable material, and also sick and elderly persons approaching death.

3. An ever greater effort towards an international confrontation in view of a possible and desirable, even if complex, harmonization of the standard and rules of biological and medical activities, rules that recognize fundamental values and rights.

Finally, I express my appreciation given that your Committee has sought to identify strategies of sensitization of public opinion, beginning with schools, on bioethical questions, for instance, for understanding biotechnological progresses.

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies, I thank you for your visit and for this moment of reflection and encounter. May the Lord bless each one of you and your valuable work. I assure you of my sympathy and my remembrance in prayer, and I trust that you will also do so for me. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT

Bioethics Q-and-A: End of Life Decision Making: What Should Catholics Do?

Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life. I urge you to overcome this resistance.

Appointment in hospital

Pixabay CC0 – DarkoStojanovic

You check into a hospital for a routine procedure.  They ask you if you have a living will.  You say no.  They slide a form in front of you with simplistic questions such as: Do you want to be resuscitated if you go into cardiac arrest?  Do you want mechanical ventilation if you are unable to breath?  Do you want nutrients and fluids supplied to your body if you’re unconscious?

Your gut tells you the questions are superficial.  If CPR could revive you and you could live decently for a while longer, yes, you’d want it.  If you’d die anyway an hour later, then no.  If ventilation was a temporary measure to help you overcome an acute condition, yes.  If you were permanently unconscious and never able to breathe again on our own, then perhaps no.  And food and water?  Of course you want to be fed.  What’s the alternative, starvation?

You don’t get much help from the check-in clerk.  And hospital healthcare managers give you ideologically-laden advice such as “think about your values…and what you feel would make your life not worth living” (from the Mayo Clinic website).  “Life not worth living!?,” you ask, “Where does that idea come from?  Not from Catholic faith.”

But you recall that your Aunt Agatha didn’t have an Advance Directive and she was subjected to aggressive and obviously-futile treatments at the end of her life and suffered unnecessarily.  You’re pretty sure that if she’d been asked she’d have said: “Enough’s enough.  Let me go to God!”  But she was unconscious.  You fear that if you don’t fill out the form, something like this might happen to you.  What should you do?

Advice for Catholics: If you can avoid using Living Wills and POLST (MOST) forms, by all means do so.  Their simplistic check-box format poses unacceptable risks from both the perspective of good medical decision-making and good ethical decision-making.  They risk binding the hands of medical professionals to non-treatment decisions that are not in the best interests of patients.

But this does not mean that Catholics should be unprepared for end-of-life crises.  I recommend that all Catholics who are able should do the following three things:

First, execute in writing a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPA) assigning a proxy decision maker—sometimes called a “surrogate”—to act as your healthcare agent in the event that you become incapable of making informed decisions.  You can do this yourself without costly legal fees.  Just make sure that your HCPA is adequately specific and your signature is validly witnessed.  Here are a few things you might include.

Invest your proxy with full authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, including but not limited to the power to:

(1) consent to, or refuse, or withdraw consent to, any type of medical care, treatment, surgical procedure, diagnostic procedure, medication and the use of mechanical or other procedures that affect any bodily function, including, in appropriate circumstances, life-sustaining procedures. [*Note: this power does not extend to the refusing of properly “ordinary means” of care, defined in Catholic teaching as forms of care or treatment that promise a “reasonable hope of benefit” and are “not excessively burdensome.”  The Catholic Church teachesthat the administration of food and water is always ordinary care unless and until one’s body no longer can assimilate them, at which time their administration becomes futile and is no longer obligatory];

(2) request, receive, and review any information regarding your physical or mental health, including but not limited to medical, hospital and other records; and to consent to or authorize the use and disclosure of such information;

(3) employ and discharge your health care providers;

(4) authorize your admission to or discharge (including transfer to another facility) from any hospital, hospice, nursing home, assisted living facility or other medical care facility;

(5) authorize that you be discharged from a medical facility and be brought home and cared for at home;

(6) take any lawful actions necessary to carry out these decisions.

You may also want to state that the authority of your agent is subject to no limitation except the law of God, the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, and your agent’s own conscience.

Second, ensure that your proxy not only is willing to direct all relevant medical decisions in accord with Catholic faith and morals, but understands what doing so means.  Frequently the limiting factor in legal disputes over end-of-life decisions comes down to uncertainty of the wishes of the patient.  Remove all uncertainty.  Make your wishes known both orally and in writing as clearly as possible to your proxy and to other loved ones.

If you are uncertain about Church teaching on end-of-life decision-making, speak to your parish priest, or an informed Catholic medical professional, or contact trustworthy groups like the Catholic Medical Association, or your diocesan moral theologian, or, if nothing else is available, directly contact your local bishop.

Third, in the event that you or your proxy are faced with a situation in which the judgment of a hospital ethics committee or other hospital decision makers seems to conflict with your faith or morals, don’t be afraid to mount a legal challenge in court.  If you are reticent because of the cost of legal representation, consult with a reliable Christian advocacy ministry such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian Legal Society, and American Center for Law and Justice.  You might even contact one of the 50 state affiliates of National Right to Life.

Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life.  I urge you to overcome this resistance.  Because a large majority of medical resources in U.S. healthcare are consumed on end-of-life treatments for the elderly, secular medicine, fueled by Obamacare, and with the support of the medical insurance industry, is investing enormous energy in publicizing and distributing secular tools for end-of-life decision making.  The tools are invariably skewed in the direction of refusal of life sustaining treatments.  Although flagrant examples of aggressive overtreatment still exist, U.S. healthcare is travelling rapidly and ineluctably in the direction of a culture of refusal.  Without conscientious advance planning, some will find the pressure to check the “refusal” box on these documents hard to resist.

Christian Brugger is Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, DC, and Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

[Readers may send questions regarding bioethics to zenitbioethics{at}gmail.com. The text should include your initials, your city and state, province or country. The fellows at the Culture of Life Foundation will answer a select number of the questions that arrive.]

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