The Institute of Bioethics of the Pontifical Argentine Catholic University has brought together a group of recognized bioethicists belonging to several monotheistic confessions, in order to develop a framework document that establishes the guiding principles and their applications in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. The outcome is the text “Bioethical framework of monotheistic religions on the occasion of covid-19” (here in Spanish original), signed on 13 May in Buenos Aires by Father Rubén Oscar Revello, director of the institute, by Rabbi Fishel Szlajen, by Imam Marwan Sarwar Gill, by the Evangelical Pastor Gabriel Ballerini and by Benjamín De Hoyos Estrada, on behalf of the Mormon community.
It is the first time in the history of Argentina that prestigious bioethics experts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam sign a joint non-theological academic declaration on this matter. The three religions share a common vision of the human being and the rights and duties deriving from their human condition. Therefore "we have decided to draw up this joint declaration as a contribution in these times of pandemic and uncertainty, both for those who share our opinion and for every person of good will who wishes to open up to dialogue".
"The current pandemic situation – as stated in the introduction - raises a debate for medicine and bioethics on the right planning of resources for mass public health care. Individual and collective rights collide with respect to other particular rights and society as a whole. Considering these conflicts, any policy planners aiming at containment, control and public health care must prepare in advance procedures that optimize scarce healthcare resources. This is what is called triage, where urgency, overcrowding, physical and psychological distress, together with the lack of sufficient health resources in terms of equipment, infrastructure and staff, contribute to the acceleration in the number of cases of patients on the verge of dying".
The five fundamental principles upon which other procedures should be based are: equal treatment, waiting time, adequate distribution and allocation of resources, non-abandonment, effective and clear communication between the professional and the patient. "It is precisely thanks to these principles that an encounter between science and faith is possible, safeguarding the dignity of every human being, ensuring their protection and defense of fundamental rights".
One of the most delicate aspects is the doctor’s choice on whom to treat. In this regard, it is stated, "the triage system must try to save most lives, without regarding as binding any rules based on age, quality of life or survival, socio-economic conditions, religion, nationality. Medical equipment cannot be taken away from a patient who needs it in favor of another one who possibly has greater energy or can get worse ». In the event that medical procedures are not therapeutic anymore, the patients "must not be abandoned or induced to be euthanized" but they must be redirected to a palliative care unit because "when it is not possible to cure it is always possible to take care".
(English translation by Leonardo Stefanucci)
In the picture from right: Father Rubén Oscar Revello, Abp. Vincenzo Paglia, Rab. dr. Fishel Szlajen (Buenos Aires October 2019)