ROME — Medicine must always serve the integral good of the person and never become a tool for doing evil, Pope Francis told a delegation of Italian doctors this weekend.
We can and must “reject the temptation” to use medicine to abet a patient in his or her wish to die, “providing assistance to suicide or directly causing death by euthanasia,” Francis told members of the National Federation of the Orders of Doctors and Dental Surgeons gathered in the Vatican.
“These are hasty ways of dealing with choices that are not, as they might seem, an expression of the person’s freedom, when they include the discarding of the patient discard as a possibility, or false compassion in the face of the request to be helped to anticipate death,” he added.
Citing the New Charter for Health Care Workers, Francis noted that there is “no right to dispose arbitrarily of one’s life, so no doctor can become an executive guardian of a non-existent right.”
Recalling the earliest Greek physicians, the pope recalled that medicine is by definition “service to human life, and as such in involves an essential and indispensable reference to the person in his spiritual and material integrity.”
Medicine is “service to man, to the whole man, every man,” he said.
Legal accommodations of assisted suicide and euthanasia are some of the “pitfalls to which today’s medicine is exposed,” he added.
For this reason, doctors must possess, along with technical-professional competence, “a code of values” with which to give meaning to their work and to “make each individual clinical case a human encounter,” he said.
The ancient Hippocratic Oath reminds us of the need for every doctor “to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness,” he concluded.