SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN ASSOCIATION OF MEDICAL ONCOLOGY (AIOM)
Monday, 2 September 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I address my cordial greeting to all of you: to the President, whom I thank for her words, to the doctors and patients present at this meeting, and to all the members.
Since 1973, the Italian Association of Medical Oncology has played a valuable role in the health sector, encouraging research and prevention, striving to improve diagnosis and treatment, and developing numerous training and updating initiatives for doctors and other health workers oncology sector. Your Statute illustrates the aims of the Association which, without profit, proposes "to promote progress in the clinical, experimental and socio-welfare field" (art. 2), in an active collaboration between doctors of different specializations , bodies and institutions. You commit yourself to "foster relationships" and "establish scientific and collaborative relationships" (ibid.) Within the scientific and health world, trying to encourage the sharing of goals achieved and multidisciplinarity, often hampered by a jealous custody of knowledge.
In a world like ours, often pushed to opposition in every sphere of human coexistence, that of creating and fostering relationships is an essential commitment for the construction of the common good. The conscious, and often tiring, choice of a style that unites rather than divides is represented, throughout the life of the AIOM, by the care of the relationship with the patient, and today it is manifested precisely by the presence among you of some patients. The choice to participate together in this meeting, sitting side by side, represents a strong message and an eloquent sign not only for the world of health, but for the whole society, called to renew itself in a solidary and fraternal style.
The National Congress, which you will be celebrating in a few weeks, will be dedicated to paying attention to the individual patient, to the "best care for each patient", based on the biological and clinical characteristics of each. This is how the oncology of precision, which you promote, also becomes an oncology of mercy, because the effort to personalize the care reveals an attention not only to the disease, but to the patient and his characteristics, to the way in which he reacts to the medicines, to the most painful information, to suffering. An oncology of this type goes beyond the application of the protocols and reveals a use of the technology that is at the service of people.
Technology is not at the service of man when it reduces him to something, when he distinguishes between those who still deserve to be treated and those who do not, because he is considered only a burden, and sometimes - indeed - a waste. The practice of euthanasia, which has become legal already in several states, only apparently aims to encourage personal freedom; in reality it is based on a utilitarian view of the person, which becomes useless or can be equated to a cost, if from the medical point of view it has no hope of improvement or can no longer avoid pain. On the contrary, the commitment to accompany the patient and his loved ones at all stages of the course, trying to alleviate their suffering by palliation, or by offering a family environment in hospices, which are increasingly numerous, contributes to creating a culture and practice more attentive to the value of each person. Never lose heart for the misunderstanding that you might encounter, or in front of the insistent proposal of more radical and hasty roads. If one chooses death, the problems are solved in a sense; but how much bitterness behind this reasoning, and what rejection of hope involves the choice of giving up everything and breaking all ties! Sometimes, we are in a sort of Pandora's box: all things are known, everything is explained, everything is resolved but only one is hidden: hope. And we have to go look for this. How to translate hope, indeed, how to give it in the most limited cases.
Your service then also becomes a work of raising awareness about a society that is not very aware and sometimes distracted. In many ways you refer to the importance of prevention, to be understood both as an early diagnosis, capable of significantly reducing the dangerousness of oncological diseases, and in terms of respect for your body and its needs. Indeed, the best and truest prevention is that of a healthy environment and a lifestyle that respects the human body and its laws. As we know, this depends not only on individual choices, but also on the places where we live that, especially in large centers, subject the body to constant stress due to the rhythms of life and exposure to pollutants. This brings our attention back to the care of the natural environment, our common home to which we must respect, because it also respects us. The protection of the environment and the fight against tumors then become two sides of the same problem, two complementary aspects of the same battle of civilization and humanity.
In your commitment to the sick, to the health system and to the whole society, I invite you to always keep in mind the example of Jesus, who was the greatest teacher of humanity, to inspire your gestures and make them your own traveling companion. His figure, whose contemplation is never exhausted so great is the light that emanates from it, inspires the sick and helps them to find the strength not to interrupt the bonds of love, to offer suffering for the brothers, to keep the friendship with God. Inspire the doctors - He who in a certain way said he was your colleague, as a doctor sent by the Father to heal humanity - to always look for the good of others, to spend himself generously, to fight for a more supportive world . Inspire everyone to be close to those who suffer. The closeness, that very important and much needed attitude. The Lord also implemented it, the closeness, in our midst. Inspire everyone to be close to those who suffer, to the little ones above all, and to put the weak in the first place, so that they can grow a more human society and relationships marked by gratuitousness, rather than opportunity.
On every activity of yours I invoke the blessing of God and I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, because with the affection of a mother watch over you, the doctors and all the sick. Making sure to accompany you with my prayer, I also ask you to pray for me. Thank you!
ImageSource: Google Images - Abouna.org - Text source Vatican.va