Why Technology Needs Ethics
Interview With Cardinal Lozano Barragán
ROME, OCT. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Technology without ethics is like a Ferrari without a steering wheel, according to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán.
The cardinal is the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, which recently co-sponsored a congress with the Acton Institute titled “Health, Technology and the Common Good.”
In this interview with ZENIT, the 74-year-old cardinal comments on the definition of health and the development of health care technologies.
Q: Today there is a lot of confusion about the concept of health. In your opinion, what is the right definition?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: The “Declaration of Alma Ata” on primary health care says that health consists in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not simply care for sickness or infirmities. This state of perfect well-being is utopian, based on nonexistent foundations.
Pope John Paul II, in the “Jubilee Message for the World Day of the Sick” in 2000, says in Number 13 that health is a process toward harmony, not just physical, mental and social, but also psychological and spiritual. It is, therefore, that which enables a person to fulfill the mission that the Lord has entrusted to him, according to the stage in life they are in.
A person is truly healthy when he is harmonic. A society is healthy when it is harmonic. This is a very important aspect to develop and one in which eternal health can be found, because earthly health is not distinct from eternal health in that sense.
Q: What are the opportunities and challenges caused by the rapid development of technologies in the field of health care?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: The challenges for the new technologies lie in the fact that their end is not the true promotion of health. This is the very destruction of health! And we can see this in all of the biogenetic technologies that are often directed toward the killing of the human person.
Life is being ended with euthanasia and with the murder of children in the womb, calling them fetuses, which is just a way to camouflage the killing of human persons.
These are the fruits of the Malthusian mentality that disguise killing under various names. John Paul II — and Benedict XVI as well — spoke of this when speaking about the “culture of death.”
Q: Today’s culture defines health as a perfect state of well-being, but paradoxically fights life itself through abortion and euthanasia. What conditions are needed to promote the person’s well-being and the common good?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: Perfect well-being does not exist on this earth because the Lord promised us happiness, not well-being. Therefore, the basic error of this type of postmodern concept is the confusion between well-being and happiness.
The person cannot be well and still be happy, or be very well and yet be very unhappy, as the high suicide rate in highly developed countries shows.
Q: What are the consequences of the “culture of death” that humanity today refuses to see or recognize?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: The “aging” of certain countries, of the world. For example, Italy’s population is the oldest in the world, and that’s because there are very few births.
Q: What link exists between the promotion of health, the development of technologies and the promotion of the common good?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: There should exist a very close link, in the sense that technology should be based on ethics: Technology as such has, in fact, possibility as its law, while ethics has an aim, a goal.
If we leave technology as only possibility, it remains neutral. It can destroy or build up. Ethics gives it direction. Therefore, highly developed technology without ethics is like a Ferrari without a steering wheel.
Q: What are the priorities in your work at the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry in this regard?
Cardinal Lozano Barragán: To give the world, as spokesmen of the pontifical magisterium, the meaning of suffering, the meaning of pain and the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Lord.