The Pope was speaking to patients and medical professionals ahead of the World Day of the Sick

A nation’s healthcare system cannot be run simply as a business because human lives are at stake, Pope Francis said.

“If there is a sector in which the ‘throwaway culture’ demonstrates its most painful consequences, it is the healthcare sector,” the Pope told patients, medical professionals, pastors and volunteers attending a meeting sponsored by the Italian bishops’ national office for healthcare ministry.

Anticipating the celebration on February 12 of the World Day of the Sick and marking the 20th anniversary of the bishops’ office, the Pope said Catholics obviously give thanks for the advances in medicine and technology that have enabled doctors to cure or provide better care for the sick.

He also praised medical personnel who carry out their work as “ministers of life and participants in the affectionate love of God the creator. Each day their hands touch the suffering body of Christ, and this is a great honor and a great responsibility,” he said.

But, the Pope said, any public policy or private initiative regarding healthcare that does not make the dignity of the human person its central concern “engenders attitudes that can even lead to exploitation of the misfortune of others. And this is very serious.”

“Indiscriminately adopting a business model in healthcare, instead of optimising resources,” he said, risks treating some of the sick as disposable. “Optimising resources means using them in an ethical way, with solidarity, and not penalising the most fragile.”

Protecting human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death means that “money alone cannot guide political and administrative choices” in healthcare, he said. And the increasing lack of healthcare “among the poorest segments of the population, due to lack of access to care, must leave no one indifferent.”