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 CNS Story:

BIOETHICS-GLANCE Dec-12-2008 (410 words) Sidebar to BIOETHICS-INSTRUCTION. With photos and illustrations. xxxi

The Vatican bioethics document at a glance

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Here are the major points of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's instruction, "Dignitas Personae" ("The Dignity of a Person"):

-- Two fundamental principles for reflection on bioethical questions are: First, the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; second, responsible human procreation occurs in the act of reciprocal love between a man and a woman in marriage.

-- Stem-cell research opens new prospects for regenerative medicine and is morally permissible when it uses stem cells taken from adult organisms, but not when it takes cells from human embryos, because it invariably causes their death.

-- Researchers in the biotech profession have a moral duty to refuse to use biological material that comes from a procedure considered gravely immoral by the church, even if there is no close connection between the researcher and those doing the illicit procedure.

-- The morning-after pill and other methods of preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg are immoral because they are intended to cause an abortion. Using such methods falls "within the sin of abortion," and when there is certainty that an abortion has taken place there are serious canon law penalties.

-- Human cloning, whether for producing embryonic stem cells or to obtain the birth of a genetically predetermined baby, is immoral.

-- Techniques for assisting fertility are morally permissible if they respect the right to life of every human being and respect procreation as a result of the conjugal act in marriage.

-- In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos are morally unacceptable.

-- The freezing of embryos or of human eggs, commonly done in assisted fertility treatment, is also morally illicit.

-- The thousands of unused, frozen human embryos are in a sense "orphans." The proposal for "prenatal adoption" that would allow frozen embryos to be born, although well intended, would itself be subject to a number of problems.

-- Genetic therapy that aims to correct genetic defects on a subject's nonreproductive cells, limiting the effect to a single person, is morally acceptable.

-- Therapy that makes genetic modifications aimed at transmitting the effects to the subject's offspring is morally illicit, because of potential harm to the offspring.

-- Pre-implantation diagnosis, used in artificial fertilization and leading to the destruction of embryos suspected of defects, represents a "eugenic mentality" and is morally unacceptable.


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