Rediscover the Family Doctor

Vatican City, November 16, 2023

As sisters and brothers, children of the same Father, we are compelled to launch an urgent appeal to rediscover the figure of the family doctor, a decisive factor in the humanization of our societies.

This appeal takes place amid our uncertain times when we are all called upon to face dramatic crises in the fields of health, the economy, immigration, the environment, and war.

We stand convinced that the rediscovery and requisite recognition of the role of the family doctor and his or her relationship with the patient can emerge as a decisive factor in humanizing our societies (1), especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Three main motives inspire our appeal:

  • Since the times of Hippocrates, the patient-doctor relationship has formed the very heart of the healthcare model, a priority that we must not only respect, but that we also must support and enhance (2). On the other hand, due to an inadequate misunderstanding of the humanizing vocation of healthcare in recent years, many social workers and health practitioners have embraced other priorities, which is why we paid such a high price during the pandemic. 
  • The doctor-patient relationship also forms the foundation of a healthcare system that adopts and prioritizes prevention and a holistic vision of health (3). The doctor who accompanies their patient and their patient’s family in life forms part of a unique humanizing heritage, not only for the healthcare system, but also for society itself. The physician promotes a harmonious vision of health in the context of a healthy life, recognizing each person’s intrinsic value and the decisive nature of family relationships. In this way, the doctor contributes to basing the healthcare system on prevention. When we lose the doctor-patient relationship, or when it breaks down, healthcare is relegated to intervening only when the patient’s situation has already degenerated, and we all face very high human and social costs.  
  • The doctor-patient relationship, finally, constitutes an antidote for healthcare systems so they do not become conditioned to interests other than the health and well-being of citizens. At times, when we set aside this relationship, healthcare systems condition their objectives on the profit motives of people or companies within their sector. Neglect of this relationship has also sometimes led to the politicization of healthcare, bartering the needs of doctors and patients.   

Pope Francis himself has lamented that “the figure of the family doctor has almost disappeared,” which risks “the good quality of territorial health services” (4). Pope Francis goes on to say that “these are so bureaucratized and computerized that the elderly or poorly educated find themselves effectively excluded or marginalized.” 

Patient and medical associations from all over the world, including the non-profit organization SOMOS Community Care, as well as other civil society associations, with the support of the Pontifical Academy for Life, launch this appeal to all social and political stakeholders to join forces and restore the doctor-patient relationship to the center of our healthcare systems. 

At the same time, this Declaration recognizes the daily role that millions of doctors play, across all five continents, not only in serving as the front line of our healthcare systems, but also when they go above and beyond, transforming themselves into the “good Samaritans” for every person.

1 – Cf. Pope Francis to Participants in the Symposium promoted by the “SOMOS Community Care” Organization
2 –  “People-Centred Heal Care”,  World Health Organization
3 –  The Charter for Health Care Workers
4 –  To the members of the “Apoteca Natura” Pharmacists’ Network (14 November 2022)

Promoters of the “Declaration”

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