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Health Workers’ New Charter: A Manual of Bioethics in Line with the Teaching of the Church

The Volume Was Presented in the Vatican on the Occasion of the 25th World Day of the Sick

The new charter of health workers was presented yesterday in the Vatican, ahead of the World Day of the Sick — instituted 25 years ago by John Paul II and observed on February 11, the day on which the Church remembers the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.

The document was presented at a press conference, which welcomed the participation of Monsignor Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, Secretary of the dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, organizer of the day; Professor Antonio Gioacchino Spagnolo, Ordinary of Bioethics at the Catholic University of Rome, and Alessandro De Franciscis, President of the Office of Medical Verifications of Lourdes.

The document updates the 1995 edition, and is a true and proper theological-moral-medical manual for health workers. Significant changes were made, first of all because it is addressed not only to doctors and paramedics, but also to administrators, lawmakers, biologists, pharmacists and, in the second place, because it introduces the concept of “health justice.”

Tied to this last aspect, the new charter stresses: “”health strategies geared to the pursuit of justice and of the common good, must be economically and ethically sustainable.” Hence, it requests that essential drugs be made available at “costs accessible to individuals and to the community.” Industrialists are recipients of the message, so that in their work they are moved by “a vision of solidarity and justice,” revealed Professor Spagnolo.

Guidelines are not lacking of very restricted topical interest. The new charter confirms firm opposition to euthanasia, stressing the duty to “respect the sick person in the final phase of life…”

Professor De Franciscis explained that, although having to respect “the reasonable will and legitimate interests of the patient,” the doctor “is not a mere executor,” but “has the right and the duty to remove himself at will from discords with his conscience” — affirmations that are grafted in the debate underway regarding the law on ADT (Anticipated Declaration of Treatment) being discussed in the Italian Parliament, which does not provide conscientious objection for health personnel in face of a patient who in his medical records has signed his will not to receive care.

A lively debate is also that about vaccines. Questioned in this connection, Professor Spagnolo stated that it is “a social duty to reduce to the minimum the possibility of infection for those who cannot be vaccinated.” The diminution of vaccines among the population is a danger for those who cannot be vaccinated for immune reasons, he added.

The New Charter confirms the opposition to practices such as abortion, pre-implant diagnosis described as a sign of a eugenic mentality and experimentations on minors or adults incapable of making decisions. “The Charter is certainly not exhaustive of the problems one can come across, but it was made in fact to offer the most clear guideline possible for ethical problems that must be addressed in the world of health, in harmony with the teachings of Christ and the Magisterium of the Church.”

This bioethical vademecum, now available in Italian, will soon be translated into English and in the future might well be issued in French, explained Monsignor Mupendawatu. Speaking then of the World Day of the Sick, which will be observed at Lourdes, the prelate explained that it will open on Friday afternoon with Cardinal Parolin’s Mass and Cardinal Turkson’s report.

It is expected that more than 10,000 people will attend the event, which will conclude on Monday morning with a Mass at the Shrine. 

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