CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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God’s love at the end of life’s journey

HONG KONG (SE): Around 700 medical practitioners and pastoral workers from Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan participated in the fifth Bioethics Conference on how to care for terminally ill patients and their families in the love of God. 
The conference, held at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Tseung Kwan O, from December 9 to 10, was organised by the Bioethics Resources Centre of the Holy Spirit Seminary College, the Diocesan Committee for Bioethics and other organisations. 
During the opening ceremony, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing expressed his hopes that the conference would draw people’s attention to the needs of the terminally ill and their families, and give a forum for people in related fields to share their experiences.
Scholars, medical practitioners, legal experts and religious leaders who comprised the speakers at the conference focussed on topics related to the sufferings and struggles of the terminally ill. 
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun encouraged people to face life and death with faith. While agreeing to the notion that sustenance of life is our biggest concern, he reminded participants that trust in God is more important and cautioned that the unscrupulous pursuit of survival or benefits only leads to a culture of death. Reminding them of the motto of the founder of the Salesians, St. John Bosco, the cardinal asked the audience to live every day as if it were your last day. He said that instead of worrying about how to face God at the final stage of life, people should live with God every day, living on earth as if living in heaven.
Chan Lai-wan, who cares for mother who is over 100-years-old, shared her joys and difficulties. She stressed the need for support, both for long-term patients and for their caretakers as they face a multitude of pressures all at the same time. She was hopeful that parishes would set up support groups for families of terminally ill patients so as to help relieve their stress.
A survey among 2,100 people, conducted by the Caritas Institute of Higher Education and the Bioethics Resources Centre last summer, looked into views on the matter of advance directives, a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken regarding their health and care if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves due to illness or incapacity.
The survey showed that 53 per cent of respondents had not heard about advance directives. After it was explained to them, 88 per cent supported it. Many did not want any assisted respiration equipment or cardiopulmonary resuscitation if they were in a continuous vegetative state. Most respondents preferred making their own decisions while they were still able to, while others said they preferred a natural death.
Topics related to palliative care, as well as funeral and burial issues, were also part of the deliberations. Summarising the discussions, Father Dominic Lui Chi-man, supervisor of the Bioethics Resources Centre, reminded those present to care about the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of the terminally ill. He also urged caregivers to pay attention to their own needs while the care for patients.
In his homily during the concluding Mass, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said that, while many choices had to be made in the journey of life, people should make their decisions based on faith and trust that God will guide them through the difficulties. 
He encouraged particpants not to pursue worldly needs but to stay with God, the source of life and love, so that they can feel his love, guidance and blessings.

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