“Abandonment is the most serious ‘malady’ to afflict the elderly, and also the greatest injustice they can suffer,” Pope Francis said in a March 5 message to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Picking up on a theme that he had explored the previous day during his regular weekly public audience, the Pope said: “The biblical commandment to honor our parents reminds us in a broader sense of our duty to honor all elderly people.” He recalled that God had promised prosperity to those who honor their parents, and said that a society that shows a healthy respect for the elderly finds that they provide wisdom and perspective, becoming “a source of life and blessing.”
The Pope decried the attitude that dismisses the elderly, and especially those who are infirm. He remarked with regret that “the logic of utility often takes precedence over that of solidarity and gratuitousness, even within families.” He added: “Evidence and efficiency cannot be the only criteria governing the work of doctors,” nor should medical facilities be guided solely by the desire for profit.
The Pontifical Academy for Life was meeting to discuss palliative care, and the Holy Father strongly endorsed an approach to end-of-life treatment that respects the dignity of the person while easing any physical suffering.