Pontifical Academy for Life


Lancet Commission Report


On April 27th and 28th at the London headquarters of the Royal Society of Medicine, the first official report of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery was presented.

The event intended to exhibit the main results of the scientific commission composed of different working groups who aimed at focusing on the reality of unequal access to surgery on a global level. The Pontifical Academy for Life was also involved in the work used in the formation of the Report.

The main points of the presentation of this report pertain to:

The review of a grave social injustice:

– around 5 million people have no access to essential surgical procedures that regard: cesarean birth, laparotomy, and the treatment of compound fractures;

- around 143 million surgical procedures would be required in order to begin to answer the essential needs of the world population;

- around 33 million persons are dealing with costs that are economically catastrophic on an individual level when seeking access to surgical treatments.

The need for surgery is transverse to any illness from birth (birth complication) to old age (for example, cataract)

Lack of personnel for surgery in countries of low and middle income (for example, one half of the world’s population is served by one sixth of surgeons).

Beyond numbers, the quality of training is likewise important and must be based on the needs of the community. Tasksharingis preferred over taskshiftingas strategy of implementation.

The importance of identifying the indicators of surgical care (for example, maternal mortality, capacity of managing catastrophe, etc.).

One particular aspect in addition to all this is intervention in the event of disaster and humanitarian emergencies; the efficaciousness of treatment in these situations is possible only when there are concrete health care systems already in place (the emergency created by Ebola demonstrated the fragility of health care systems).

Identification of the obstacles in countries of low and middle income:

- on a community level (cultivate awareness of hospital necessities because many prefer to seek out local persons to the effect of delaying contact with efficacious treatment)

- distance from the hospitals and general infrastructure

- economical difficulties

- hospital related (normal upkeep of instruments, blood supply, staff formation, etc.)

Objectives of the Lancet Commission:

- offer real data and translate this data into policy;

- identify strategies for operation and support political systems (that is, improvements of infrastructures in countries that allow hospital access);

- creation of a network of experts for the independent and responsible study of these issues.

Recommendations of the Lancet Commission:

- responsibility is an attitude that must guide the work and decisions of research and medicine in the future;

- research and producing data is strongly supported;

- the adoption of national health care programs is strongly supported;

- treatment strategies must consider the specific realities in each country (generalizations in strategy do not work).

Conclusion: investment in the extension of surgical procedures on a global level is economically sustainable and will save lives while stimulating economic growth.

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