Abortion is “homicide and it is not lawful to become an accomplice,” Pope Francis said today in an address to the participants in a Congress organized by the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy.
The Holy Father reminded the pharmacists that their duty is closeness, “especially to women, so that there is no thought of abortion as a solution because, in reality, it isn’t the solution.”
At the beginning of his argument, the Holy Father said that the Congress is an opportunity to “reaffirm the importance of the National Public Health System, an essential element to guarantee the common good and a country’s social growth. And all this in the context of the pandemic, which has changed and will change the way of planning, organizing and managing health and health care.”
Routine, Hidden Service, and Professionalism
The Pontiff structured his address in three “ways” in which pharmacists must continue their efforts. The first, taken from the parable of the Good Samaritan, is based on their daily routine work and hidden service — aspects “that require patience, constancy and precision, and they do not have the gratification of appearances — they have little visibility,” but, accompanied by prayer and love, generate “the holiness of daily life.”
The second way is professionalism. Together with the clinician, it is the hospital pharmacist who researches, experiments, suggests new ways, always in immediate contact with the patient. It is about the capacity to understand the illness and the patient, of personalizing the medications and doses and of facing, at times, the most complex clinical situations.”
The third way is founded on professional and social ethics. In the personal ethical aspect, the pharmacist is at the service of human life, including when it involves conscientious objection, “which isn’t disloyalty,” but fidelity to the profession “if it is validly motivated,” explained the Pope. This is “the ethical intimacy of every health professional and this must never be negotiated; it is in fact the ultimate responsibility of health professionals,” he continued.
Speaking of social justice, Pope Francis said that in “the Italian National Health Service, a great space is taken up by the universality of access to care, but the pharmacist, including in the hierarchies of management and administration, it not a mere executor. Therefore, the management and financial criteria are not the only elements to keep in mind. The throwaway culture must not affect” the profession of health workers, he stressed.
The management of resources and care not to waste what is entrusted in the hands of every pharmacist acquires not only an economic but also an ethical meaning, more than that, I would say human, very human <meaning>.
Let us think of attention to detail, the purchase, and storage of products, their correct use, and their destination to those that have need and urgency,” he concluded.
Here is His Holiness’ full address, offered by the Holy See Press Office.
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I thank the President of the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy and the Pharmaceutical Services of the Health Authorities for the words they addressed to me in the name of you all. Thank you. You have come from the whole of Italy for your Congress, in representation of different realities. The Congress is for you, first of all, an opportunity to face one another but also to reaffirm the importance of the National Public Health System, an essential element to guarantee the common good and a country’s social growth. And all this in the context of the pandemic, which has changed and will change the way of planning, organizing, and managing health and health care. In this connection, I would like to point out three ways in which to continue your efforts.
I take the first from the figure of the innkeeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan: he is asked lodging for the wounded man and care until the Samaritan returned (cf. Luke 10:35). In this personage, we can see two significant aspects of the hospital pharmacist’s work: daily routine and hidden service. They are aspects that are common to many other jobs, which require patience, constancy, and precision, and which don’t have the gratification of appearances — they have little visibility. Daily routine and hidden service don’t have visibility, or little, so to speak, little visibility. Precisely because of that, if they are accompanied by prayer and love, they generate the “holiness of daily life.” Because, without prayer and love — as you well know — this routine becomes arid, but with love, done with love and prayer, it leads one to next door holiness, anonymous saints that are everywhere because they do well what they have to do.
The second way has to do with the specific dimension of the hospital pharmacist, namely, his professionalism, his post-graduate specialization. Together with the clinician, it is the hospital pharmacist who researches, experiments, suggests new ways, always in immediate contact with the patient. It’s about the capacity to understand the illness and the patient, to personalize the medications and doses, and to face, sometimes, the most complex clinical situations. In fact, the pharmacist can take into account the global effects, which are more than the sum of individual medications for the different sicknesses. Sometimes — according to the institution — there is a meeting with the patient at other times the hospital pharmacy is one of the invisible departments that makes everything work, however, the person is always the recipient of your care.
The third way refers to the profession’s ethical dimension, in two aspects: the personal and the social.
At the individual level, the pharmacist — each one of you — uses medicinal substances that, however, can become poisons. Here it’s about exercising a constant vigilance so that the objective is always the life of the patient in its totality. You are always at the service of human life. And, in some cases, this can involve conscientious objection, which isn’t disloyalty but, on the contrary, fidelity to your profession, if it is validly motivated. Today it’s somewhat fashionable to think if it would be right to eliminate conscientious objection. However, think that this is the ethical intimacy of every health professional and this must never be negotiated; it is, in fact, the ultimate responsibility of health professionals. It is also a denunciation of the injustices committed against innocent and vulnerable life. It is a very delicate subject, which requires simultaneously great competence and great rectitude. In particular, I have had the occasion recently to return to the subject of abortion. You know that on this I am very clear: it is a homicide, and it’s not lawful to become an accomplice. This said, our duty is closeness, our positive duty is to be close to the situations, especially of women, so that one doesn’t arrive at thinking that abortion is the solution because, in reality, it isn’t the solution. Afterward, life — ten, twenty, or thirty years having passed –, hands you the bill. And it’s necessary to be in a confessional to understand the very hard price paid.
This was the personal ethical level. Then there is the level of social justice, which is so important. “Health strategies oriented to the search for justice and the common good must be economically and ethically sustainable.” In the Italian National Health Service, a great space is occupied by the universality of access to care, but the pharmacist — including in the hierarchies of management and administration — is not a mere executor. Therefore, the managerial and financial criteria are not the only elements to keep in mind. The throwaway culture must not affect your profession. And this is the other ambit on which we must always be attentive. “The task to guard the earth God Our Father has given to us, not to money: to men and women, we have this duty! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the throwaway culture.” It also happens with older people; they are given half the medications and thus their life is shortened . . . Yes, it’s a rejection. This observation, referring originally to the environment, is applied even more to the human being’s health.
The management of resources and care not to waste what is entrusted to the hands of every pharmacist acquires not only economic but also ethical meaning, more than that, I would say human, very human meaning. Let us think of attention to detail, the purchase, and storage of products, their correct use and destination to those in need, and urgency. Let us think of the relation between the different workers — the wardens, the sick, the doctors, the anesthetists — and with all the implicated institutions.
I thank you for this visit and hope that you will be able to advance in your very human work, so worthy, so great, and often so silent that no one realizes. Thank you very much. May God bless you all and pray for me. Thank you.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester