Bioethics Blogs

Palliative Care’s Highly Placed Supporter (Pope Francis)

In CEC studies of decision making in medical care at the end of a person’s life, two themes have emerged as most important: 

1. The communication skills of the care team, especially the attending physician (in particular, an ability to listen as well as explain).

2. Not waiting till the last minute to involve specialists in palliative care. (The CEC appreciates the care more than the name; we prefer to think of it as compassionate care.)

As CEC chair Carol Powers wrote in a November 2013 letter to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: “The Committee has three primary concerns about the provision of information on palliative care and end-of-life treatment options. That information must be sensitive to cultural and religious perspectives; it must be in a form that assumes face-to-face conversations with a member of the patient’s health care team; and it must be provided in the context of continued and compassionate care.”

I thought of Carol’s letter, and her testimony to the DPH’s Public Health Council, while reading a new statement of support for palliative care from a powerful voice: Pope Francis. In a letter of strong endorsement to the Pontifical Academy of Life, the pope defined palliative care as “an expression of the properly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer.”

The full text as translated by Vatican Radio follows. A report concerning the letter can be heard here.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I cordially welcome you on the occasion of your general Assembly, called to reflect on the theme “Assisting the elderly and palliative care,” and I thank the President for his kind words.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.