Friday, December 12, 2008

From the beginning, a matter of dignity

Today the Vatican released a document on ethical issues concerning biomedical research. And it's not just stem cell research.

The "instruction" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled "Dignitas Personae" -- The Dignity of the Person -- takes a balanced view of research that aims to improve the quality of life, acknowledging the benefits of research that could result in medical advances.

But the instruction also reveals a dark side to progress: if humanity loses sight of what it means to be human, especially the innate dignity of every person from conception to natural death, then new and dangerous threats to human life could emerge.

That is why the document emphasizes human dignity so strongly.

Read the Catholic Standard & Times for more on this important teaching of the Church.

In the meantime, a news release on the document nicely summarizes the key themes, including embryo adoption; pre-implantation (of embryo) devices and drugs; gene therapy; genetic enhancements/designer babies; and human/animal hybrids.

If time allows, read the whole "Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions." It's not too long, and it's in English.

There is also a Vatican summary (a poor-quality scan, but nevertheless helpful), and a handy Q&A on the document, including a brief teaching on in-vitro fertilization.

So there is the homework assignment. Read up on this important topic. It's the best way that Catholics can influence this emerging scientific field and convey the truth of humanity's God-given dignity, from the moment of conception.

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