Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says
VATICAN— Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.
“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.
This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.
Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”
“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”
Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.
The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.
Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.
In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican’s new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”
The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”
To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.
Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”
This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.
He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”
Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.
Again quoting from the Vatican’s healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”
He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”
Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.