Principles of Catholic Social Teaching in Healthcare by: Aaron Cancio

The duties of a hospital can be read in their code of ethics. All hospital employees are responsible for the well being of every patient that comes into their establishment which relates to the Rights and Responsibilities principle of Catholic Social Teachings. Cabrini University states, "The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a duty and responsibility to help fulfill these rights (human rights) for one another, for our families, and for the larger society." The point of these rights are to protect human dignity which is the intrinsic value of each individual. As a Health Administration Major I have learned that the health care system today in 2019 is transitioning from a quantitative care system to a qualitative care system. This means that the health care system is trying to find ways in order to better prevent and stop people from becoming sick along with better treatments. A quantitative system, which describes the health care system we are trying to change from, solves issues when they occur and does not try to prevent them. As an employee of a healthcare system it is our job to protect human dignity and the lives of anyone suffering from illness.

The Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality by Pope Francis explains the effects of human activities on the planet. According to Pope Francis we have, "inflicted on her (Earth) by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life" (pg 3). Here he explains that the constant use of Earth's resources such as natural gas and oil has caused harm. Using an abundant amount of these resources has caused pollution, and the ways to obtain these resources also harm Earth. It is due to humanities' selfishness and idea that we are rulers of the world that we are allowed to abuse this power. The violence that we have in our culture is directly represented in the Earth through pollution.

Global Inequality

Pope Francis talks about global inequality and that the poor are not taken into consideration and do not have a say on issues when these issues also affect them. Pope Francis says, "The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas (pg 29). In the healthcare system the poor/uninsured is a major group of people that is taken into account when developing new techniques. The healthcare system has programs that cover the uninsured which is called Medicaid. However, this does not mean the uninsured are necessarily happy about the care they get in a hospital.

Principles of Social Catholic Teaching

Pope Francis in Laudato Si says in section 206, "They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers (pg 127). Pope Francis explains that when society is displeased with the affects of a business, and in this case, on the Earth, these businesses need to find a way to change. He explains that there is a social responsibility within the consumers to bring up the negative affects of these businesses and make them change their production. In healthcare not everyone has access to services or the money to afford care needed to pay for treatments they need. The Preamble of The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics states, "a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost, as well as to society, to other health professionals, and to self." Before the document starts talking about the specific principles a doctor must follow, it states that a doctor also has an obligation to care for any patient that walks into an organization. The last principle of the code of ethics reiterates this and says, "A physician shall support access to medical care for all people." These responsibilities of health employees incorporate what Pope Francis says in his book except in this case it is centered towards a hospital rather than businesses and pollution. The fact that a doctor must care for a patient no matter what also incorporates most of the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching stated by Cabrini University.

A Paradox

Despite all the efforts the United States has put into the healthcare system these efforts contradict where we stand on the quality of care we receive. The WHO or the World Health Organization ranks us 37 out of 191 countries which is relatively high but the amount of funding we have compared to other countries contradicts our ranking.

Healthsystemtracker.org shows the amount of expenditures the United States spends compared to a few countries.
These same countries are ranked higher than the United States healthcare system and that we are below the comparable countries average even though we spend much more than other countries.

Pope Francis says in paragraph 206 that not only is it a businesses' job to positively change a businesses' operation but also the communities to fight for changes that will be better for them and the environment. It is difficult however if people do not know about these issues which is another point that Pope Francis makes in this book. He says in section 15 that, "Finally, convinced as I am that change is impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience." Without knowledge or exposure to an issue it would be impossible for someone to know what needs to be fixed. In this book he gives his insight on how as a community we can stop pollution and help keep the Earth healthy. This relates to also fixing the healthcare system since the issues presented in the book tie into how the healthcare system can change.

The Common Good

The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching stated by Cabrini University is the respect of human life and dignity. A hospital's duty is to preserve the life of every individual however without money a person might not be able to get the care they need to preserve their life. Pope Francis believes that this is the case because, "There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected." Even though the code of ethics for a physician or a hospital employee is to preserves everyone's life, special interests or selfishness leads to corruption and a system failure. A hospital at the end of the day is a business that not only helps people but also tries to gain money in order to have systems that help ensure the quality of care is high. The problem however is that if there is no money healthcare employees would dwindle since there is no incentive to help these people. Pope Francis includes a prayer in union with creation at the end of this book which says, "Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live." These words are vital to a hospital since selfishness and greed are not qualities that would benefit employees. It is the job's of a health system to preserve life and care for a person.

Closing Statements

The Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality by Pope Francis gives good insight on how to fix systematic issues that deny the preservation of Earth's life. These insights can also be incorporated into the general lives of people and in this case, a hospital setting. However it is difficult to change since the one who ultimately controls these systems is the government. Pope Francis says that the community has a responsibility to advocate for change where people see it should but not everyone's opinion is the same. Here is where I believe that despite people's opinions the common good should trump all of this and that change should occur to further preserve the life of the people and the Earth in the future. In section 60 of the Encyclical Pope Francis says that there are opposing views on climate change. On one side people say climate change will fix itself, on the other people believe that human intervention will further lead to the destruction of the Earth. Both views say that whatever humans do to fix this issue it will not work. However there have been numerous cases where human intervention has changed issues. It is our job as society to identify issues within the community and to address and fix them. Looking for ways to improve the future systems is something people must come together to do in order to preserve the health of the people and the Earth.



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