Tonight I sat in on a webinar on human cloning, in-vitro fertilization and other bio-ethical issues presented by Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC).
Dr. Haas gave a historical and theological background on the health care issues which threaten human dignity, from Hippocrates to St. Thomas Aquinas to Pope John Paul II and the Church’s contemporary teaching in Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae, as well conscience protections established by law in this county in 1973 that were recently wiped out by the current White House administration.
His teaching on the scientific machinations of IVF and human cloning were clear and engaging. He discussed how science sometimes becomes a means to its own end, i.e., continuing to engage in embryonic stem cell research despite the failure of this manipulation to produce cures for human disease (as opposed to adult stem cell research, which has produced cures and treatments for well over 100 diseases) and simply for the sake of pursuing knowledge itself. Also notable was Dr. Haas’s statement that we are loosing more children to in vitro fertilization than to abortion. That was chilling to hear. It was interesting to learn that in the 1990s Germany enacted an Embryo Protection Law which prohibits freezing of embryos and recognizes that life begins at conception. German law limits to 3 the number of embryos that can be implanted in a woman, and they must be implanted at the same time. Experimentation on embryos is forbidden in Germany. Yes, Germany.
He also taught on end-of-life issues including the teaching of Pope Pius XII on the prolongation of life and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services issued by the USCCB, including the topics of proportionate treatment, double effect and the latest in advanced directives – MOLST/POLST – medical/physican orders for life-sustaining treatment, which are similar to advanced directives but must be followed regardless of circumstances (even for those not terminally ill), and are actionable and portable.
I am very grateful to Dr. Haas for his presentation and highly recommend the NCBC as a resource for information on ethical issues in light of health care. I hope other such webinars are offered.