Healthcare institutions are not to be run as a business, protect the person, not the profits

No to corporate mentality in Catholic health care facilities. No to treating life as “a private property”. No to the achievements of medicine and biotechnology that manipulate human existence.

Jan 18, 2019

By Salvatore Cernuzio
No to corporate mentality in Catholic health care facilities. No to treating life as “a private property”. No to the achievements of medicine and biotechnology that manipulate human existence. No to the logic of profit at any cost, to the detri- ment of the protection of the human person. For Pope Francis, life is a “gift” and, as such, should be treated, not yielding to the drifts that risk diminishing its preciousness. This, in brief, is the core of the message that the Pontiff has published on the occasion of the XXVII World Day of the Sick, which takes place on February 11 and which this year is solemnly celebrated in Calcutta, India, hav- ing Mother Teresa as its patroness.

The Albanian saint is the point of reference for the message of the Pope, as “a model of charity who made visible God’s love for the poor and the sick”, who made herself avail- able for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, of those unborn and those abandoned and discarded... She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God given dignity. Twenty one years after her death, still today Mother Teresa helps to understand that “our only criterion of action must be selfless love for every human being, without distinction of language, culture, ethnicity or religion”, the Pope writes. This is especially true for the sick, whose care, he emphasises, “requires professionalism, tenderness, straightforward and simple gestures freely given, like a caress that makes others feel loved.”

Life is, in fact, a “gift from God” and, precisely because it is a gift, “it cannot be reduced to a personal possession or private property, especially in the light of medical and biotechnological advances that could tempt us to manipulate the ‘tree of life’,” the Pope says. “Amid today’s culture of waste and indifference, it is important to reiterate that ‘gift’ – which differs from gift giving because it entails the free gift of self and the desire to build a relationship... is the category best suited to challenging today’s individualism and social fragmentation, while at the same time promoting new relationships and means of cooperation between peoples and cultures,” Pope Francis says. “Each of us is poor, needy and destitute,” he observes in his message. “When we are born, we require the care of our parents to survive, and at every stage of life, we remain in some way dependent on the help of others. We will always be conscious of our limitations, as ‘creatures’, before other individuals and situations. A frank acknowledgement of this truth keeps us humble and spurs us to practise solidarity as an essential virtue in life.”

In this perspective, the Pope praises the work done by the volunteers, promoters of that fundamental ‘human gratuitousness’ in the social and health sector. Modern ‘good Samaritans’ whom the Bishop of Rome thanks and encourages for their service, in particular all the associations that deal with the transport and rescue of patients and those that organise donations of blood, tissues and organs. “One particular area in which your presence expresses the Church’s care and concern,” the Pope adds, “is that of advocacy for the rights of the sick, especially those affected by pathologies requiring special assistance. I would also mention the many efforts made to raise awareness and encourage prevention.”

Francis also applauds the voluntary services in healthcare facilities and at home, which ranges from providing healthcare to offering spiritual support: “it is of primary importance. Countless persons who are ill, alone, elderly or frail in mind or body benefit from these services,” he writes. “The volunteer,” he continues, “is a good friend with whom one can share personal thoughts and emotions; by their patient listening, volunteers make it possible for the sick to pass from being passive recipients of care to being active participants in a relationship that can restore hope and inspire openness to further treatment... Volunteer work passes on values, behaviours and ways of living born of a deep desire to be generous. It is also a means of making health care more humane.”

A spirit of generosity ought especially to inspire Catholic healthcare institutions, whether in the more developed or the poorer areas of our world. Therefore, “Catholic healthcare institutions must not fall into the trap of simply running a business; they must be concerned with personal care more than profit,” Pope Francis admonishes clearly, adding that “Catholic facilities are called to give an example of selfgiving, generosity and solidarity in response to the mentality of profit at any price, of giving for the sake of getting, and of exploitation over concern for people. We know that health is relational, dependent on interaction with others, and requiring trust, friendship and solidarity... I urge everyone, at every level, to promote the culture of generosity and of gift” is the Pope’s concluding invitation. This “is indispensable for overcoming the culture of profit and waste” which instead seems to be the soul of this world today. --Vatican Insider

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