VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told a group of pharmacists that they must avoid anaesthetizing consciences, and emphasized that drugs should be used to help human beings, not to take the life of unborn children or the elderly.
The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience a group of participants attending the 25th international congress of Catholic pharmacists, under way in Rome.
The Holy Father's brief remarks included a reflection on the developments in pharmaceuticals and medicines and the possibilities they offer. He asked the pharmacists to consider the "ever broader functions they are called to undertake, especially as intermediaries between doctor and patient."
He recalled their role in educating patients "in the correct use of medications" and in informing them of "the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs."
"In this context," the Pontiff said, "we cannot anesthetize consciences as regards, for example, the effect of certain molecules that have the goal of preventing the implantation of the embryo or shortening a person's life. Pharmacists must seek to raise people's awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and so that medicines truly play a therapeutic role."
Turning his attention to therapeutic experiments, Benedict XVI recalled that individual persons may not be treated as objects.
Such experiments "must be carried out following protocols that respect fundamental ethical norms," he said, emphasizing that "all attempts at cure or experimentation must be undertaken while bearing in mind the well-being of the person concerned, and not only the pursuit of scientific progress."
"The quest for the good of humanity cannot proceed at the expense of the well-being of the people being treated," the Pope affirmed.
Right to object
The Holy Father also made a firm defense of conscientious objection.
He said the federation of pharmacists "is called to face the question of conscientious objection, which is a right that must be recognized for people exercising this profession, so as to enable them not to collaborate directly or indirectly in supplying products that have clearly immoral purposes such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia."
The Pontiff further affirmed that pharmaceutical organizations should practice "solidarity in the therapeutic field so as to enable people of all social classes and all countries, especially the poorest, to have access to vital medicines and assistance."
"The biomedical sciences are at the service of man," he concluded. "Were it otherwise they would be cold and inhuman. All scientific knowledge in the field of health care [...] is at the service of sick human beings, considered in their entirety, who must have an active role in their cure and whose autonomy must be respected."