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Vatican Calls for More Palliative Care Centers
SEOUL, South Korea, FEB. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Due to the increase in health costs and the temptation to euthanasia, more palliative care centers are needed, says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health and Pastoral Care, said this in Seoul at the 15th World Day of the Sick.

The World Day of the Sick is held each Feb. 11; this year the theme was "The Spiritual and Pastoral Care of Patients with Incurable Illnesses."

The pontifical council published a report for the occasion, which sought to expand "the knowledge of the work of the Church in the world of suffering, in particular to those with incurable illnesses," Cardinal Lozano Barragán explained. He added that: "The right to life in the terminal patient is precisely in the right to die with serenity, with human and Christian dignity."

The report was the result of a 2004 study made in 121 countries of Catholic health centers specializing in palliative care.

These palliative care centers, ranging in size, are not limited to the work of medical assistance, but also support the faith and families of the patients.

"All of this affects, not only the reduction of physical pain, but also the recuperation of their affective life," explained the cardinal.

Needs

Personnel shortages were reported in most of the centers due to a lack of funding. Catholic spiritual assistants and volunteers were also lacking.

Therein lies "the need to promote pastoral programs in local churches dedicated specifically to palliative care and to provide an appropriate catechesis," said Cardinal Lozano Barragán.

"With palliative care, medicine places itself at the service of life in the measure that, although aware that it cannot defeat a grave pathology, it dedicates its capacities to alleviating the sufferings of those who are terminally ill," added the cardinal.

Referring to Benedict XVI's message, for the World Day of the Sick, Cardinal Lozano Barragán explained that there is a need for more centers of palliative care that offer integral assistance, providing the patient with the necessary human help and spiritual accompaniment, "a right that belongs to every human being and that we must all commit ourselves to defending."