How do these two areas relate to Laudato Si?
Throughout my three years at the University of Scranton as a Neuroscience major, I have been getting involved in different areas of study to figure out what I plan to do after I graduate. I am currently considering Graduate School to do either Neuroscience or Psychology research or going to Physician Assistant School to be a PA in a hospital or private practice. I have been gaining exposure to these areas during my time in college. During my exposure, I have noticed numerous connections to what we have learned in class this semester, especially in relation to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and Catholic Social Teaching.
Laudato Si, in summary, is about relationships. It is about relationships between people, people and the environment, and people and creatures of the earth. Catholic Social Teaching contains seven principles: the life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation. The message behind Laudato Si and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching relate to both of my intended career paths. Prioritizing environmental care and the dignity of people and animal’s in research and working in a hospital or private practice are necessary in both of my fields of interest.
"EACH YEAR HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF TONS OF WASTE ARE GENERATED, MUCH OF IT NON-BIODEGRADABLE, HIGHLY TOXIC, AND RADIOACTIVE" (LAUDATO SI, 21
The different forms of waste generated in both hospitals and labs include: biodegradable waste, the component which is a biological product; non-biodegradable waste, includes all such wastes, which have not been produced through the “biological process; infectious waste, these are the waste which are infectious in nature and are potent to cause diseases; chemicals or medical waste, wastes that are the medicines which have crossed their expiry dates or the medicines released due to leakage from containers or the pathological waste” (Nosocomial Infections through Hospital Waste). There are many methods of disposing of waste, such as incineration and deep burial which are the most common. The waste is categorized and disposed of in certain colored bags to ensure proper disposal. However, despite these procedures, according to the World Health Organization, there are still deleterious effects to the environment. Incineration leads to air pollution. Deep burial that is left unattended can lead to drinking and land contamination (World Health Organization).
Hazardous hospital waste has been divided into various categories that require different treatment procedures that correspond to different types of waste.The 10 different categories explain how waste is disposed of usually by incineration or deep burial.
The different forms of waste generated in both hospitals and labs include: biodegradable waste, the component which is a biological product; non-biodegradable waste, includes all such wastes, which have not been produced through the “biological process; infectious waste, these are the waste which are infectious in nature and are potent to cause diseases; chemicals or medical waste, wastes that are the medicines which have crossed their expiry dates or the medicines released due to leakage from containers or the pathological waste” (Nosocomial Infections through Hospital Waste). There are many methods of disposing of waste, such as incineration and deep burial which are the most common. The waste is categorized and disposed of in certain colored bags to ensure proper disposal.
In many third world countries, many small hospitals and nursing homes do not have safe disposal measures.
"Even government and municipal hospitals are no better than these private nursing homes and hospitals regarding disposal of their wastes. Thus, an unauthorized reuse of medical wastes by rag pickers, is being promoted by irresponsible dumping of these dangerous waste in open bins."
(Nosocomial Infections through Hospital Waste)
In America, it may be easier to be consciously aware of waste disposal and safety measures; however, in third world countries, the safety measures cannot always be met, and this leads to contamination. According to Laudato Si, Pope Francis says, “we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture” (Laudato Si 43). In disposing of waste, “there is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries” (Laudato Si 51). In addition to the waste being improperly disposed of in third world countries, when other countries ship waste, these developing countries are affected most. These developing countries suffer when waste is transported or not disposed of properly, and suffer from air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and many other ecological factors.
Even with proper disposal of waste, there are still deleterious effects to the environment. Incineration, the most common practice of waste disposal, leads to air pollution. Deep burial that is left unattended can lead to drinking and land contamination.
Ways to Move Forward to Environmentally Friendly Disposal:
Many moves toward environmentally friendly disposal are in the process. Pope Francis calls for “greater investment in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment” (Laudato Si 42). He understands that our current disposal methods are efficient up until a point, but not entirely effective. For example, alternatives to incineration such as autoclaving, microwaving, steam treatment integrated with internal mixing, which minimize the formation and release of chemicals or hazardous emissions are being considered; raising awareness of the risks related to health-care waste, and of safe practices; and reducing the volumes of waste generated.
(World Health Organization)
“The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). This shows us the immense dignity of each person (Laudato Si 65).
Everyone was created by God and therefore deserves to be treated with respect and basic human rights. As a PA, it is my job to make sure that I treat each patient with the proper care and respect that they deserve. It is not my place to allow my own biases impede their treatment simply because I do not agree with the treatment they desire. In relation to Laudato Si being about relationships, Pope Francis says, “those who are committed to defending human dignity can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment” (Laudato Si 65). This relates to relationships because defending the human dignity of a person puts the individual in solidarity with the patient.
"It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2418)
Respecting the dignity of animals can be difficult especially when it comes to conducting research, where most research experiments are conducted on animals before humans. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis says “it is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves” (Laudato Si 30). When researchers conduct their studies, they are using the animals as resources because animals are easily available and have less ethical requirements for care than humans.
Ethical Care for Animal Research
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for making sure animal research is conducted ethically. This committee protects the rights of animals because all researchers must submit a proposal to this committee before experimentation begins to ensure that the animals are being housed safely, fed properly, and, if sacrifice is needed, that they are sacrificed safely and properly (IACUC). Prior to its inception, unethical practices were acceptable because there were no rules or guidelines. I have had conversations with researchers who disclosed that they use to dissect animals while they were still living with no anesthesia—a practice that is clearly unethical because of the immense pain inflicted on the animal—because there were no rules against it.
In addition to the IACUC, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative was created to train individuals who plan on conducting animal or human research. This intensive training initiative details proper care for animals and humans and must be completed every two years before an individual can perform research on animals or humans. These initiatives correspond with Pope Francis’ Laudato Si because they are active methods that help maintain the dignity of animals.
Further, Laudato Si does not entirely discriminate against animal research. In Laudato Si, it further explains that “while human intervention on plants and animals is permissible when it pertains to the necessities of human life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only ‘if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives’” (Laudato Si 130). As a Neuroscience major, I work in a research lab on campus that specializes in Neuroscience and Psychology research. I have learned about and been involved in studies that relate to the effect of high fat diets in mice and their learning and memory, as well as the effect of prenatal Tylenol exposure to mice and that effect on learning and memory. The research that I conduct is necessary to understand the long-term effects of high fat diets and prenatal Tylenol exposure in humans. Our experiments are conducted within ethical means and should have beneficial outcomes for humans. The benefits of this experiment outweigh the negative effects on these animals.
“Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 1992.
Dwivedi, Anil K. “Nosocomial Infections through Hospital Waste.” OMICS International OMICS International, 7 Mar. 2016.
“Health-Care Waste.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization.
“IACUC.” American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.
Pope Francis. “Laudato Si.” Biography | Francis. 2013.