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VATICAN-CONSCIENCE Mar-16-2007 (370 words) xxxi

Academy: Catholics must refuse medical procedures that destroy life

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic health care professionals, including hospital administrators, have an obligation to refuse to participate "in any medical intervention or research that foresees the destruction of human life," said the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The academy, in a statement dated March 15, defended the right of both individuals and hospitals to declare their status as conscientious objectors to procedures that destroy human life.

The statement followed the academy's Feb. 23-24 assembly, which was devoted to discussions about educating Christian consciences and exercising conscientious objection in defending the right to life.

In addition to refusing to participate in abortions, the statement said, doctors, pharmacists and nurses also must be aware of their "moral responsibility" when asked to provide so-called "emergency contraception," clarifying the difference between treatment designed to prevent conception, for instance in the case of rape, and treatment designed to destroy a human embryo before it can be implanted in the uterus.

The academy said medical professionals also should be reminded of "the moral obligation to give the public complete information on the various mechanisms of action and the effects" of the drugs used for emergency contraception.

The statement said Christian leaders, teachers and parents must make greater efforts to educate people's consciences to help them respond to the questions raised by new medical and technological developments.

"Organized and influential pressure groups" are increasingly successful in getting laws passed and judicial judgments handed down that allow "exceptions to the individual right to life" or even legitimize the taking of life in some circumstances, the statement said.

The result, it said, is a "refusal to recognize that life is the foundation of every other human right and that the respect owed to the dignity of every human being is the foundation of freedom and responsibility."

In the current social context, the exercise of "a courageous conscientious objection" must be considered by every doctor, nurse, pharmacist, hospital administrator, judge and legislator directly involved in protecting human life and the common good, it said.

Courage is needed, the statement said, because despite a "culture of ideological tolerance" those who refuse to participate in the destruction of human life often meet harsh resistance.


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