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Pontifical Academy seeks to redefine "quality of life"

Pontifical Academy for Life president Bishop Elio Sgreccia has said that while countries and international organisations push for better "health" and "quality of life", "what exactly is meant by 'quality of life', is not yet clear to the public and perhaps not even to politicians themselves".

The General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life which will meet in the Vatican next week to focus on what Bishop Sgreccia (pictured) called, "two current and weighty concepts: 'the quality of life' and that of 'health'."

Speaking at a Vatican press conference, Sgreccia defined "quality of life" by referring to a number of "parameters", including medical-health, socio-economic, and ecological.

But at the same time, he said, "a very different meaning has progressively emerged," a "reductive" meaning where "it is affirmed that where an acceptable level of quality of life does not exist, life loses its value and does not merit being lived." Here, he said, we see that "the quality of life becomes absolute and the sacredness of life becomes relative."

The bishop also talked about problems in defining the word "health." "Even if health does not represent the ultimate good of the person", he said, "it is however a very important one which demands the moral duty to preserve, support and recover it."

He noted the problems that have arisen since the World Health Organisation defined health "as 'complete physical, mental and social well-being'; this value has become utopian and mythical" and sometimes has "lethal meanings," such as "the fact that, motivated by women's health, abortion was legalised."

Up to what point does 'the right to health' go? Is there a right to health 'at all costs'? Or rather, is there a right to care?"

Pontifical Academy seeks to redefine cultural definition of "health" (Catholic News Agency 17/2/05)

Meeting to open on quality of life, ethics of health (Vatican Information Service 17/2/05)

18 Feb 2005