My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we prepare our hearts to celebrate God’s incarnation to the world to redeem our sins, and as we approach the end of the year, let us take this opportunity to reflect and introspect upon our services as medical doctors. Our calling as healthcare providers is noble. In Evangelium Vitae, an encyclical letter regarding the value and inviolability of human life, Pope Saint John Paul II highlighted that our work is a very valuable service to life. He went on to mention that the work of healthcare persons “expresses a profoundly human and Christian commitment, undertaken and carried out not only as a technical activity but also as one of dedication to and love of neighbour” (EV 89). He continued by saying that “(our) profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life” (EV 89).

Realising the privileges we have and the importance of our services, it is an absolute requirement for us to always respect the human dignity and its sanctity in making our decisions for our patients. Human dignity is highly regarded in the eyes of our Catholic faith. Humans are God’s most advanced creation. We recall that “God made man in his own image, made him in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).”

Indeed, this point is further emphasised “Catholic health care ministry is rooted in a commitment to promote and defend human dignity; this is the foundation of its concern to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until death. The first right of the human person, the right to life, entails a right to the means for the proper development of life, such as adequate health care”.

In providing healthcare services, the respect of human dignity means we view all our patients as equals regardless of their racial and socio-economic backgrounds. “The inherent dignity of the human person must be respected and protected regardless of the nature of the person’s health problem or social status. The respect for human dignity extends to all persons who are served by Catholic health care” (E.R 23). The greatest challenge in this regard is to prevent ourselves from being servants to money and power. We have to constantly remember that all lives are equal in the eyes of God and thus we must not discriminate in treating our patients.

Furthermore, “A person in need of health care and the professional health care provider who accepts that person as a patient enter into a relationship that requires, among other things, mutual respect, trust, honesty, and appropriate confidentiality”. In my opinion, these four aspects can be fulfilled if we base our works on the acts of love, more specifically God’s love. As I have previously mentioned, God himself has given us a privilege in our ability to save people’s lives. Therefore, as a form of our thanksgiving to God, we should use our talents to spread His love to others, to the patients we treat.

How do we show God’s love in practice? The absolute requirement is sincerity. Being a medical doctor is not just a profession, it is a life calling. We have to carry out our duties with honest intentions to improve people’s lives. Our patients entrust their lives into our hands, so it is our moral obligation to honour this by putting all our efforts and provide the best service to treat them. I strongly believe that one of our most joyous moments as doctors is when we see our patients leave in pure happiness after being cured from their illness.

Relating this to Christmas, let us take this opportunity to give hope to our patients through our services, with the same spirit as God’s arrival on earth which gave hope to many who were longing for a saviour. We should all remember that whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it for God (cf. Matthew 25:40).

I sincerely wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year 2015. God bless every step of our lives and may He guide and protect us in our service to Him and to our patients in need.

Ignatius Harjadi Widjaja, MD

President of AFCMA (Asian Federation of Catholic Medical Associations)