Palliative care means accompanying, not abandoning
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Palliative
care is a reminder that love for those who are dying means
accompaniment, not abandonment, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said
In a Feb. 28 letter, the Holy Sees Secretary of State told the
Congress on Palliative Care that medicine is based on an untiring
commitment for new knowledge, but must also recognize the limits of
disease and illness.
And this means not abandoning sick people, but rather being close to
them and accompanying them in the difficult test that makes itself
present at the end of life.
He said the mutual dependence of love emerges with particular
emphasis in moments of sickness and suffering, especially at the end
of life, but which in reality permeates all human relationships and
indeed constitutes their most specific feature. The cardinal cited
St. Pauls Letter to the Romans about the continuing debt to love one
another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
The Congress on Palliative Care, organized by the Pontifical Academy
for Life, is taking place in Rome from Feb. 28 to March 1.
On the agenda of the congress was a presentation of the project
PAL-Life, organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life, to disseminate
palliative care practices globally. The congress and the PAL-Life
project aim to promote dialogue and cooperation between those involved
in performing and promoting palliative care
Cardinal Parolin told the congress that palliative care is a task in
which believers can find like-minded companions in many people of good
will. He said it was significant that representatives of different
religions and cultures were present at the congress.
There is a human and theological dignity that does not cease, even
when one loses ones health, ones social role, or control over ones
Palliative care is valuable for medical practice, and for human
existence as a whole, because it reminds humanity of the basic dignity
at the root of every caring relationship, he said.
Cardinal Parolin noted the importance of the family in palliative care
because of its unique role showing solidarity between the
generations. The family is where mutual aid is experienced in times
of suffering or illness.
He suggested there is a bridge between the care one receives at the
beginning of life and the care to be given responsibly to others, in
the succession of generations so as to embrace the whole human
When all the resources of action seem to be exhausted, the cardinal
said, the most important aspect of human relations emerges: that of
being, including being present, being close, being welcoming.
This also involves sharing in the impotence of those who reach the
extreme point of life, Cardinal Parolin said. When this sharing
happens, the meaning of the limit of life can change: It is no longer
a place of separation and solitude, but rather an opportunity for
meeting and communion.
Death itself is introduced into a symbolic horizon within which it
can appear not so much as the term against which life breaks and
succumbs, but rather as the fulfillment of a freely received and
lovingly shared existence.
Discussing pain relief, the cardinal noted how Pope Pius XII
distinguished it from euthanasia. It may be administered for
unbearable pain not otherwise treatable even if it may cause a
shortening of life.
With the advent of new sedative drugs, the cardinal explained, the
ethical criterion does not change, but the use of these procedures
always requires careful discernment and great prudence. Deep sedation
runs the risk of removing the relational and communicative dimension
that is crucial in accompanying palliative care.
It is therefore always at least partially unsatisfactory, so it must
be considered as an extreme remedy, after having carefully examined
and clarified the indications.
The cardinals letter closed saying that Pope Francis imparted his
blessing to the congress and asked prayers for his ministry.