Inter-Religious Symposium on ‘Religion and Medical Ethics’

Palliative care helps the sick to die in dignity

The Pontifical Academy for Life and the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, organized a special symposium entitled “Religion and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and Mental Health During Aging,”

This symposium was dedicated to the role of religion in integral care in the context of medical ethics, highlighting the benefits of inter-disciplinary and inter-religious focuses in the treatment of the body, mind, and soul.

As Monsignor Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life pointed out, this event focused on two sectors of health care: the palliative care and mental health of the elderly. On one hand, said the Prelate, “we are witnessing the growing aging of the population; on the other, the spread of a culture of euthanasia, because terminal patients and persons of advanced age are considered disposable in a world centered on profit and the economy, and health policies often yield to an accounting mentality.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that “we know how much palliative care is the protagonist of recovery of an integral accompaniment of the patient in the context of contemporary medicine.  And we know that we can take care, even when we can no longer cure, balancing a person’s care with economic budgets.

He also stressed that although men and women need to be accompanied “in a moment of fragility,” this is even truer when it’s a question of minors, “a very delicate and painful realm: pediatric palliative care,” given that “when suffering affects children, it affects us even more.”

The Church’s Commitment

On the other hand, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, traced the commitment of this organism with the promotion of a culture of palliative care at the level of the Catholic Church worldwide, through the holding of several Conferences and with the signing of a Joint Declaration with the Methodist Church in the United States, and with the signing of a Joint Declaration with Sultana Afdhal in Brazil, Lebanon, and Qatar.

He also referred to a Position Paper on the subject of the end of life and palliative care, signed in the Vatican on October 28 with representatives of the three Abrahamic religions, and the White Book on the Promotion and Diffusion of Palliative Care in the World, prepared by an international group of experts.

Inter-Religious Character

For her part, Sultana Afdhal spoke on the inter-religious nature of this event and the participation of experts, both of faith and of medicine, something that “offered an inestimable opportunity to understand in greater depth the very real ethical dilemma that health professionals face of different spiritual origins throughout the world, in addressing these very delicate subjects.”

 “A profound medical inter-religious and inter-disciplinary dialogue on palliative care and the mental health of the older members in our communities is essential to help to establish a common terrain. This will help us find more effective ways to bridge the differences in the ethical focuses based on faith, be they real or perceived,” she added.