Friday, August 19, 2005

The Meaning of Suffering

Pope Urges Doctors to Teach Meaning of Suffering.
In a Message to a Congress Held in PeruVATICAN CITY, JULY 18, 2005 ( Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholic doctors to teach their patients the transcendent meaning of illness and suffering.In a message sent to a congress on "Sickness and Christian Life," which closed Sunday in Lima, Peru, the Pope urged doctors to support their patients "with an attitude of charity, teaching them to accept their human limitations and sickness, and encouraging them to offer their sufferings to the Lord, thus uniting themselves to Christ's redemptive sacrifice."Such an attitude "contributes to give a view of life firmly rooted in faith and nourished by contemplation of the Cross," the Holy Father said.Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, opened the meeting last Friday. The congress was organized by the Life and Spirituality Institute and the Association of Catholic Doctors of Peru, and held in the auditorium of the National Institute of Neoplastic Illnesses.Vatican Radio reported that the cardinal stressed that "to approach the mystery of suffering, one cannot have 'weak thought' but 'strong thought,' which, without disdaining scientific knowledge, affirms in a meta-rational way the logic of the faith."SolidarityThe cardinal also explained that "all of us human beings are co-responsible" in the mystery of suffering.We can choose between living in "solidarity the illness generated by original sin" or living in solidarity "in obedience to God," he said."For the suffering of a person in time to acquire salvific meaning," it must be united "to the suffering of Christ and, in him, to the whole of humanity," added Cardinal Lozano.This is the victorious personal practice, which "enables one to face the mystery of suffering from the perspective of the Resurrection," he indicated.The cardinal continued: "The only way to decipher the enigma of pain and suffering is the way of love -- a love that is capable of transforming nothing into full reality. It is the profound solidarity of victorious love which resurrects, within loving solidarity, the worst suffering that kills. It is victory over death. …"Christ gives the answer to the problem of suffering: He responds to the one who offers him all his willingness and compassion; his presence is effective; he helps, gives and gives himself."


Following is an extract of an article quoting Fr Clarence Dass's views on EUTHANASIA that appeared in THE SUN (20th June 2005)

Catholic priest and moral theologian, Rev Clarence Devadass: "Life is sacred. Life originates from God and only God determines when life comes to an end. We do not decide when a person should die.

"The normal reaction to suffering and pain is to find ways to end it so the patient starts thinking, why not just die and not suffer. People in pain may not be in the right frame of mind to make requests to die. Furthermore, suffering is part of life, much as you want to avoid it.

"There is the argument focused on the quality of life today and many of us have forgotten the sanctity of life.

"Some people say if a person is old and sick, or disabled, they are worthless but who determines the worth of a person's life? What makes you think that a person with one arm less has a lower quality of life? For that person, that is the fullness of his life. Each of us has our own defects but God loves us just the same.

"Can people say you are old and sick and worthless so we might as well just kill you? We cannot be playing God. Medicine is there to help people. It is a gift from God. It is God working through science and technologies. They are instruments of God's healing, an aid to society not a hindrance. If the prognosis is bad and treatment is of no help, we may say 'No' to extra-ordinary treatment like those in advanced stages of cancer because you will only be prolonging the agony. Nevertheless, basic nutrition and hydration must be provided and cannot be withheld or withdrawn.

"'What about costs?' people ask. Well, society should not wash away its responsibility over an individual in a society. Society is responsible to an individual as much as an individual is responsible to society. Healthcare costs are escalating and the state has to provide for the well-being of its citizens. So it has to help people who cannot afford healthcare. If not then there is something wrong with the system.
"People sometimes call it mercy-killing, but how can you kill somebody out of mercy or love? It is a contradiction in itself. It does not make sense. Life is sacred and this applies in all circumstances. It is absolute. The problem is, people are seen in terms of their usefulness. We look at youth or the usefulness of a person to society as a measure of a person. Only if you are of any use to society will it take care of you. If you burden me and are of no use to me, you can die. That seems to be the trend today. Fortunately, still has a strong sense of God and religion. So it is hoped that cases like Terri Schiavo's do not happen in Malaysia. Thank God euthanasia is not allowed in Malaysia.


ROME, JULY 27, 2005 ( Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic works with
an international network to make umbilical cord stem cells available to
patients with acute leukemia, thalassemia, lymphomas and congenital

The clinic runs a bank for umbilical cords, and any patient, from
anywhere in the world, who is genetically compatible with one of the units
of blood of the umbilical cords stored, can receive a unit of blood from
the umbilical cord for transplant purposes.

An international network to identify donors has been operative since
1995, thanks to a computer file which has data on marrow and placenta
blood donors worldwide.

The bank's activities are coordinated by professor Giuseppe Leone,
director of the Institute of Hematology of the Catholic University of Rome,
and professor Salvatore Mancuso, director of the Department for the
Protection of Woman and Nascent Life.

In this interview with ZENIT, Leone and Mancuso discuss the present
state of stem cell research.

Q: What is your response to those who say that using embryonic stem
cells, and not those from the umbilical cord, is the answer for illnesses
such as leukemia, or of the blood in general?

Leone: First of all, let's speak from a clinical point of view: Cells
from embryos have never been used and they have certainly not
demonstrated therapeutic capacities.

On the contrary, adult stem cells, and those of the umbilical cord,
have demonstrated their validity in marrow transplants, for example, in
the case of patients with thalassemia, or children with leukemia. At
present, there is no patient who has been cured with embryonic stem cells.
This must be clarified.

To those who say that ethics removes a "possibility" of cure, one
should say that at most it removes a "hope." But if we want to speak of
hope, then we can experiment with animal embryos. Once we have studied
animal embryos we will be able to say something on the subject, we will
have understood a bit more. I do not see any reason why at present human
embryos should be used. Ethical problems to one side, animals must be
studied first.

Q: Are women told about the possibility of donating the umbilical cord
to one of these banks?

Mancuso: Increasingly. When they come to give birth in our department,
they request that the blood of the umbilical cord be donated because of
the spirit of solidarity that is increasingly spreading. However, not
all umbilical cords can be collected and kept for donation, as there are
certain minimum requirements on the family history of both spouses.

It is necessary that the pregnancy come to its termination, as there is
a whole series of counter-indications. We can collect for donations
between 30-35% of the umbilical cords from births that take place in our
department. But much of the blood collected from umbilical cords is
useful for research.

At present, there is great interest in research, not only in our
department, but also in hematology, cardiology and neurology, as adult stem
cells have an extraordinary versatility and, in fact, are restorative.

Q: How long can these cells be stored?

Mancuso: I would dare to say that they can be stored for an infinite
amount of time. Today there are cells that have been stored for 30 years
and that, to a large extent, maintain their capacity to be used. At
present, the scientific community in several research centers is seeking
to store and multiply them in vitro, as the amount of stem cells that
can be collected from a cord are not that many.

Leone: They have been used, above all, to patients with acute leukemia,
thalassemia, lymphomas, or congenital immune-deficiencies. These
sicknesses are benefiting at present the transplant of stem cells from the
umbilical cord. Research, obviously, tries to go further. The blood of
the cord can give us hope for other pathologies. Now there are hopes for
heart disease.

Q: When you say that sicknesses "are benefiting," what do you mean?

Leone: In the case of acute leukemia, there is a certain number of
patients that are cured, in the case of thalassemia, the percentage is
higher. In the case of immune-deficiencies, 70-80% are cured. In the case
of leukemia, it is 35-40%. We are talking, that is, of cures.