What does it mean to be a Catholic doctor, nurse, or other health-care practitioner in today’s world?

That was the question on the table for about 100 people who gathered at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University on March 9 for the Converging Roads “Fundamental Health Care Ethics” all day seminar by the St. John Paul II Foundation.

“To recognize the very face of the Lord in the face of patient to whom you give care, no matter how difficult some may be,” is the essence of the vocation of the Catholic health care worker, said Arland Nichols, president of the St. John Paul II Foundation, in his talk opening the conference….

“Christ gives us the example of suffering, but also of hope,” said Dr. Natalie King, an expert in palliative care, care for those for whom there is little hope of cure or recovery. Being with the sick, caring for them and treating each person as an individual child of God is the task, King said. Palliative care draws on a multidisciplinary team of medical workers, chaplains, social workers, and families.

“We must hold an ethics of care,” King said.

She focused her talk on a Vatican letter from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, “Samaritanus bonus: on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life.”

The letter drew little notice when it was published in September of 2020, at the height of the Covid era, but it draws a beautiful picture: “The mission of faithful care of human life until its natural conclusion is entrusted to every health care worker.”

As well, the letter from the Church’s doctrinal authority, issued with the concurrence of Pope Francie, notes: “Euthanasia and assisted suicide are always the wrong choice….”

Throughout the day, a series of speakers, experts from around the country, continued to address hot button issues in health care including gender and sexuality, mental health, and issues surrounding the prevalence of prenatal diagnosis.

The day began with Mass offered by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone who thanked those attending the conference for their commitment to ethical health care. In his homily, he said their faithful witness “also means being in the presence of God which means a life of prayer.”

“How important this is for medical professionals in the life and death decisions you have to make all the time,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “Thank you for your faithful witness. May God grant you grace.”

From the Archdiocese of San Francisco