Ethics must guide medical research, protect human dignity, pope says

By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — Moral and ethical concerns must guide medical research so it will
always be at the service of protecting human life and dignity, Pope Francis

that way, education and research can strive “to serve higher values, such
as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human
life, and fraternal and selfless love,” he said April 29, during an
audience with people taking part in a conference on adult stem cell research.

whether in academia or industry,” he said, “requires unwavering
attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human
life and the dignity of the person.”

Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance and had addressed the conference
with a 29-minute speech on the need to invest in prevention, access and
affordability in the fight against cancer.

conference looked at current and experimental techniques in using adult stem
cells to fight disease, specifically rare illnesses afflicting children. The
April 28-30 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture; its
foundation, STOQ, which is an acronym for Science, Theology and the Ontological
Quest; and the Stem for Life Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of the for-profit
Caladrius cell-therapy company.

to participants gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, the pope highlighted
the conference’s emphasis on top-notch medical know-how without overlooking the
“ethical, anthropological, social and cultural questions, as well as the
complex problem of access to care for those afflicted by rare conditions.”

struck by rare diseases “are often not given sufficient attention because
investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic
returns,” the pope said.

fact, the pope repeated his call against “an economy of exclusion and
inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over
the value of human life.”

is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization
of empathy” so that resources will be dedicated to finding cures and
people will be allowed access to treatment, he said.

know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be
prompt in caring for these people, who often feel abandoned and ignored,”
he said. People must be sensitive to everyone regardless of their religious
beliefs, social standing or cultural background, he said.

his speech, delivered before the pope arrived, Biden spoke about the attention
and comfort he felt when the pope met him and his family privately during the
papal visit to the United States in September.

lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer in May 2015. The vice president
said that during the private meeting in an airplane hangar in Philadelphia, the
pope’s words, prayers and presence “provided us with more comfort than
even he, I think, will ever understand.”

a Catholic, said his family, like many others around the world, have seen
“how faith can turn loss into hope, and hope into action.”

Holy Father has given hope to so many people, of all faiths, in every part of
the world, with his strong words and humble ways,” he said.

spoke about the U.S. administration’s “Moonshot,” an initiative he
leads and which is aimed at eliminating cancer through prevention — including
from environmental causes — and greater access to healthcare and affordable
treatment. “The best medicine and treatment can’t belong only to the
privileged and the powerful. It has to belong to everyone,” he said.

is a constant emergency” Biden said, as it causes the deaths of 3,000
people a day in the United States.

urged researchers and scientists to share and publish data and discoveries
“immediately,” and not hide it for years behind “paywalls.”

do you wait? What is your rationale?” he said.

in all religions, is animated by hope and love, he said, adding that he had
faith global progress was possible.

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