JPII: Expense of Health Care Threat to Poor

VATICAN CITY—While economic pressures exert constant pressure on the health care industry throughout the world, providers must reach out to the poor and reverse a dangerous trend of neglect, said Pope John Paul II.

The relationship between economy and health was the focus of a conference at the Vatican Nov. 18-20, organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

In virtue of his dignity, every person has the right to “enjoy the benefits offered by progress, science, technology and medicine,” said the Holy Father, who acknowledged that it is not the Church's role to define the economic models and health systems that are the most appropriate to resolve the difficult relation between economics and health.

But, “in the context of globalization, her mission consists in doing everything possible so that the question will be addressed and resolved in light of those ethical values that foster respect and safeguard the dignity of every human being, beginning with the weakest and poorest.”

John Paul noted with “heartfelt sorrow” that the “breach between wealth and poverty” — which should be decreasing — is growing ever greater.

The solution, he explained, requires an awareness of the dignity of the person and of human interdependence, which should lead to an increase in the sense of duty in solidarity.

“Only from this horizon can a [purely] economic vision of health care be overcome.” Solidarity opens new horizons because it offers the virtue of charity — sharing the love of God — “especially with the weakest brothers, among whom are the sick.”

The Pope asked governments and international agencies to be guided by the common good in addressing the relationship between economics and health.

The Holy Father urged that “profit not prevail over human values,” and exhorted “the more advanced countries to make available to the less developed [countries] their experience, technology, and part of their economic wealth.”