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The Physician's Relationship With Morality

From President of World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations

ROME, DEC. 2, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the text of a document released by the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations.

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Letter to Catholic Physicians Worldwide on
"The Physician's Relationship With Morality"

By Dr. José María Simón
World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC)

Dear Colleagues,

Relations between the physician and the moralist have not always been easy. Numerous colleagues from different countries are asking for reflections to help them to practice the medical profession with moral security. One of the requirements of this moral security is frequent consultation with experts to enlighten the professional conscience. In order to be truly human, it must be well trained and correctly informed and must be frequently refined in its permanent search for the truth. In recent times, given the nature of the answers of the experts, it is worth offering certain clarifications on the quality and scope of these answers.

The natural law exists

The natural law is the ability of straightforward human reason to know and to stick to the truth. There is no other profession that appreciates the existence of this law as much as physicians.

Although the natural law does not coincide with biological law, we are perfectly aware that if we underestimate human physiology, for example, our patients will be sick. No one can, for example, eat stones without transgressing the laws of our body and, therefore, falling ill. This can help us to understand that there is also a law which helps us to value human dignity. We all "know" that it is bad to kill an innocent human being. Or that it is bad to steal. We know that if we do not consider the human being also as a psychological, spiritual, family and social being, our duty to transform suffering into well-being (as physicians we are like Nazarenes, like Cyrenaics, who help to withstand the weight of the disease and the pain) will never fully attain its objectives.

Although the absolute majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth believe in a Supreme Being, in many Western societies many thinkers and opinion creators do not. We can also give them natural reasons for what is good or bad for the human being. Furthermore, it will sometimes be with these reasons that they will perceive how sublime our thinking is.

In view of the existence of the "natural law," given its complexity (although some rules are very simple), and as it is obvious that we human beings have suffered from serious limitations since the times of Adam, we can wonder whether there is some ultimate authority which can interpret this law correctly. Numerous intermediate jurisdictional levels help or hinder the perception of this law.

Our ultimate personal authority is our personal professional conscience, which will trigger the decisions on medical acts. Indeed, each of us just with our own reason can go far in the search for the truth. But there is a safe, genuine and objective, and therefore useful and good authority for a general interpretation of the law, something which prevents us from making glaring errors with the human being and which moreover seeks the transcendental happiness of people.

God is the Creator of the universe and of man. And, as some political constitutions say, God made man free. Free to choose the truth and good. But also free to choose evil. Experience tells us that good and evil are entwined in countless shades inside our health-care structures. If evil exists, confusion and error also exist. Both blameworthy and blameless error (we must fight against both!). Moreover, it is possible that some people are particularly determined to spread the confusion. And evil can establish real "sin structures," places, establishments or laws which do not serve the human being.

The Church interprets the natural law

Our Creator stipulated that it is the Church that should interpret the "natural law" in an authentic manner. It moreover looks after everything that he revealed and which is not in nature. As human beings we are only passing through this world as a test, to a certain extent isolated from God but not at all forsaken. In the Lord's Prayer we say "Our Father, who art in heaven," which already shows that we are on another level, not in Heaven. "Thy kingdom come" and "deliver us from evil" clearly show us that there is a better condition which can come and which has not yet fully come and that the Creator can do everything. The teachings of the Catholic Church can help us on not leaving us alone. The Church speaks with human language (and in different languages) about everything that happens to man.

Another truth that ...

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