Palliative care: truly valuing human life

Rio de Janeiro: First Latin American Congress of Palliative Care from 25 to 30 May last.

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The Pontifical Academy for Life in union with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro organized the First Latin American Congress of Palliative Care from 25 to 30 May last.

The Archbishop of Rio, Cardinal Orani João Tempesta, opened proceedings and observed, "Speaking of palliative care today means valuing human life in a cultural environment where the principle of "the discarded" applies, of casting the sick and the disadvantaged aside. We aim to value human life in all dimensions and we intend to start pastoral work in this sense".

400 doctors, priests, pastoral workers and volunteers attended the Congress. It was divided into themes and sessions held in the Cathedral of Rio Auditorium. Among those present were Father Anibal Gil Lopes, President of the Fides and Razio Academy and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Msgr. Riccardo Mensuali and Msgr. Andrea Ciucci, delegated by the President of the Academy Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, represented the Vatican institution.

Speakers included Msgr. Alberto Bochatey, auxiliary bishop of La Plata (Argentina) and Academician of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

In his speech on the theme "I was sick: did you visit me?", Father Lopes illustrated the significance of the work of the Pontifical Academy on Palliative Care to emphasize the importance of the relational dimension in the life of every human being, from its very origin when cells fuse and form.

The director of the National Cancer Institute, Germana Hunes Grassi Gomes, has studied medical aspects related to palliative care. "We know how fundamental quality of life is, and to patients undergoing palliative care it is all the more important to provide assistance worthy of our ethical, moral, religious, medical values, in the delicate and terminal phase of their lives. The basic principle is very simple: suffering becomes intolerable when no one takes care of it”.

In his presentation, Msgr. Alberto Bochatey highlighted that the Church must regain possession of the profound root of the term euthanasia, which means ensuring the accompaniment towards a dignified death, in a significant relationship between the patient, healthcare professionals and family members.

Msgr. Riccardo Mensuali analyzed the psychological implications of the treatment of the seriously ill. "It is the first time that a great Diocese has involved so many different expressions of the local Church on such a delicate subject, a true sign of that outgoing Church to which Pope Francis invites us".

Msgr. Andrea Ciucci illustrated the areas of competence of the Pontifical Academy for Life, commissioned by Pope Francis. The basic themes concern Palliative Care (and this Latin American Congress, he explained, is just one of the initiatives to spread a culture of Palliative Care in the Catholic world).

The strength of the initiatives of the Pontifical Academy was substantiated in the recent publication of the White Book, in English and German, with operational recommendations for growing a palliative culture.

Other areas of work of the Pontifical Academy, explained Msgr. Ciucci, concern reflection on technological developments involving human life: biotechnologies but also robotics and artificial intelligence. "Life is people, men and women, both in the individuality of each person and in the unity of the human family".

“This time, full of complex and serious challenges, is a blessing. The good news of the Gospel, in fact, can resonate as fullness of life for every woman and every man, for every old man and every child, who lives in this planet. We are called to this mission, sharing our unbridled passion for the truth, the root of all scientific research, with everyone who cares about human life and the common home that is given to them, whatever his beliefs, whatever his history. We do it, we will do it, with the humility of those who know that this is a service; we do it, we will do it, taking care that our last word is always a world of mercy, the way in which the true life of God is revealed.”