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Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care

10/8/2007 - 5:45 AM PST

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"Putting Technology at the Service of Man"


ROME, OCT. 8, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the address delivered by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, during a conference co-sponsored by the Vatican dicastery and the Acton Institute, titled "Health, Technology and Common Good." It was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Oct. 28.

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My Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been honored to welcome all of you into this one-day conference which reflects themes based on Health, Technology, and Common Good. Well, I shall do this duty with pleasure, on behalf of the joint organizers of this Conference: The Acton Institute and the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

First of all, it is my duty to welcome all the distinguished speakers of the day. We have a wide spectrum of topics as well as experts for each session. So let us give all of them a hearty welcome and wish that they will enlighten us throughout the day. Then, to all the participants so that the reflections of today will lead us to more fruitful action in the future.

I have been asked to present "The Future for Health Care: Putting Technology at the Service of Man." Well, I am to do that presentation in two divided sessions, one in the beginning as I am doing now, and the other at the end of the day as closing remarks.

Part I: Introduction

Therefore, at this moment I shall try to introduce briefly the day's theme: Health, Technology and the Common Good. First of all, there needs to be a clear understanding of what health is; because technology must be oriented to health, and to the future of care health. I am sure Monsignor Jean Laffite is an expert to explain it to us in detail. It has been my experience as the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care that there is a lot of confusion regarding health, even among political leaders as well as Church leaders. Many bishops from all over the world, when they come to visit the Pontifical council, had asked me to present for them what does it mean health today, especially when there are lot of technological developments. So I prepared especially for them a short volume called "Metabioethics and Biomedicine."

My point is there are people who seriously want to understand clearly what health is, especially at this period of globalization, when they are bombarded with partial or unclear information, especially from various international organizations, NGOs and other associations who are involved in health care. There is clearly a paradigm shift in the ethical reflection on health. This so called "New Paradigm" is supposed to be the official thought of the United Nations and its various bodies like WHO and UNESCO.[1] It is supported by four NGOs in particular: "Women's Environment and Development Organization," "Earth Council," "Green Peace" and "International Planned Parenthood Federation."

According to its proponents the objective of the new global ethics is to achieve global well-being within the confines of sustainable development. This global well-being is what forms the target also known as World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) and is defined as: "the perception by the individual of his position in life, within the context of the culture and system of values in which he finds himself, and in relation to his goals, expectations, models and interests."

It covers six areas: 1. Physical health, 2. Psychological health, 3. Level of independence, 4. Social relations, 5. Context (economy, freedom, security, information, participation, environment, traffic, climate, transport…) 6. Spirituality. Aside from social duties, the basic factors are autonomy and self-determination.

One of the precepts of this new paradigm is "Health For All". Health for all is defined as at Alma Ata: "the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

It requires ten aspects: health education, adequate nutrition, clean drinking water, basic health care, maternal infant care, immunization against the major contagious diseases, prevention and control of local endemic diseases, suitable treatment in the event of common disasters and illnesses, access to basic medicines and reproductive health.

Although apparently there are values in this new paradigm shift what is basically wrong is an ideology that is "closed to the transcendent." First of all, there is an ethical subjectivism and relativism. Since there no objective validity in their argument those who hold to this thinking concentrate their activities above all in "lobbies," to seek or buy consensus. Their thinking is based on a distinction made between the human being or individual and the person. In any case, there are only rights for the person, not for ...

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