A one-day conference organized on Ethics, Aging, and the Coming Healthcare Challenge took place yesterday at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University. Organized by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, with the co-sponsorship of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the conference looked at ethical, medical, and economic issues arising in light of the new challenges presented by aging demographics and ever-extending life-spans.
A featured speaker at the conference, Professor Daniel Sulmasy of the University of Chicago is a Franciscan Friar and a member of the President’s Council for the Study of Bioethical Questions in the United States.
He told us that the medical community would benefit from the experience and guidance of the Church’s centuries of experience in thinking about matters of life and death. “The Church invented bioethics before there was the word,” Sulmasy said. “We invented the term, ‘extraordinary means’, four or five hundred years ago – it’s been a part of our tradition for centuries.”
Sulmasy went on to say the Church’s way of thinking about these matters is eminently reasonable. “Hewing always to the middle,” said Sulmasy, “[we] say that life is always valuable. We can never intentionally destroy it – but recognizing its value is also to recognize its finitude.” He went on to say that this allows us to say, with St. Paul, “’I have fought the fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith,’ and when the time comes, to cease and desist these extraordinary means of care.”