Monday, December 15, 2008

On the Bioethics Front...

In the past week, two fairly noteworthy documents have been released...

1. Dignitas Personae

The CDF released an update to Donum Vitae entitled Dignitas Personae. A summary and a Q and A have also been released. The document focuses primarily on beginning of life issues and reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization. The document also addresses several new issues and technologies which had not yet been formally discussed by the Magisterium. The Q&A doc explains:
Some very new issues are discussed here for the first time. Some proposed methods for altering the technique for human cloning so it will produce embryonic stem cells but not an embryo (e.g., “altered nuclear transfer”) are judged to require more study and clarification before they could ethically be applied to humans, as one would have to be certain that a new human being is never created and then destroyed by the procedure. (These cautions do not apply to an even newer technique, using genetic or chemical factors to reprogram ordinary adult cells directly into “induced pluripotent stem cells” with the versatility of embryonic stem cells. This clearly does not use an egg or create an embryo, and has not raised objections from Catholic theologians.) Proposals for “adoption” of abandoned or unwanted frozen embryos are also found to pose problems, because the Church opposes use of the gametes or bodies of others who are outside the marital covenant for reproduction. The document raises cautions or problems about these new issues but does not formally make a definitive judgment against them. The document also goes into far more detail than past documents in raising moral concerns about use of “germ-line” genetic engineering in human beings, for treatments and especially for supposed “enhancement” or tailoring of human characteristics.
Despite all the cautions, the CDF attempts to emphasize that the Church's overall attitude toward bioethical research is a positive one, provided that the dignity of the human person is always respected and made a top priority of all research. The document explains:
Behind every “no” in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil, there shines a great “yes” to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single and unique human being called into existence.
Interesting stuff. I only wish they had addressed end of life issues. Important and difficult questions remain, but an update to Donum Vitae was needed and is helpful.

2. The Dignity of Chimeras

For those of you who may not know, a chimera is some sort of hybrid animal, in this case, part-human part-something else. Chimeras have for the most part been creatures of fantasy and sci-fi... up until now. Crazy stuff!

The British Parliament has drafted a Human Tissue and Embryo Bill. One of the issues addressed in the bill is chimeras. If the bill is passed, "the creation of animal-human embryos - created by injecting animal cells or DNA into human embryos or human cells into animal eggs" - will now be legal. Wow! Another instance of scientists using the dangerous philosophical approach of "let's see what we can do" rather than asking "should we even be doing this." This could potentially be very dangerous stuff, which is why the bill mandates that if a scientist chooses to create chimeras, the part-human/part-animal hybrids must be destroyed within two weeks.

This is where the Scottish Catholic Bishops' Conference stepped in. Now if you read about the bishops' statement on a secular news site, you will probably only hear that the bishops said that the chimeras must be treated with dignity, their right-to-life must be respected, mothers whose eggs are used to create chimeras must be given the right to bring their child to term, etc. Predictably, that's not an entirely accurate representation of what the Scottish bishops had to say.

First they called for the bill to be rejected by Parliament saying that creating human hybrid creatures is horrific and breaks a moral boundary which is not to be crossed. Only after denouncing the bill in toto and calling the creation of chimeras alarming and horrific did they proceed to add that if a chimera were created, "it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them" and "Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term,
she should not be prevented from doing so." The bishops conclude "at very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings and should be treated accordingly."

This makes sense to me. The bishops are right to be alarmed to call for the denunciation of this "research." However, we cannot know whether or not these hybrids would be persons or not. In order to play it safe and prevent ourselves from murdering innocent persons with intrinsic dignity and an inherent right-to-life, we must allow (and demand!?) that they be taken to term and treated as any other person once they are created.

Sigh... God help us!

More coverage here and here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

From around the Blogosphere and such


It's been too long since I've posted, and I still don't have the time or focus to put together anything original or intelligent. Nevertheless, what follows are some stories or thoughts which have caught my eye recently. Let me know what you think.

On the Peace and Nonviolence Front...

Catholic Lt Col at Gitmo chooses the Cross over the Flag

Darrel Vandeveld is a devout Catholic. Not so long ago he was also a military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay. However, what he saw and experienced there struck him as immoral and un-American. His well-formed Catholic conscience was not comfortable. He emailed Fr. John Dear, a peace activist, and after much mental anguish chose to quit the US military. Watch the BBC's interview here and read more here

US Torture policies in Iraq have lead to the Deaths of countless Americans

Matthew Alexander was an interrogator for a special ops task force in Iraq in 2006. Other people in his position chose to torture alleged and/or known terrorists to attempt to get what they wanted. Alexander refused, and in an article titled "I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq" for the Washington Post he writes:

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

Read the entire article here.

The FDA: What were they thinking?

This is Silly: Prescription Handguns!??

According to their website, the mission of the FDA is as follows:

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.

If that's the case, why are they approving a miniaturized thumb-triggered handgun as something which can be prescribed? What!? Oh! In the near future it may be covered by Medicare. Ladies and Gentleman, your tax dollars hard at work!

More here.

This is dangerous and reprehensible: Gardasil - Bad for women (a shocker I know)

Remember how Gardasil was supposed to help prevent much of cervical cancer? Forgetting for a moment that you shouldn't have to be vaccinated for a disease caused by STDs, because... you know... your free will, chastity, abstinence, the moral life, etc. Forget about all that. Generally speaking a drug might be considered a good thing if it can prevent a large portion of the population from getting a deadly form of cancer. Well, as it turns out, Gardasil may actually make things worse.

Natural News reporter Mike Adams has uncovered some interesting facts about this vaccine. The FDA has been aware since 2003 that Human Papillloma Virus [1] does not cause cervical cancer. The Gardasil vaccine is unable to eradicate HPV virus from women who have been exposed to HPV (nearly all sexually active women). This makes vaccinating all young women in Texas against HPV virus a very questionable decision.

To make matters even worse it has now been learned that vaccinating women with Gardasil may actually increase the risk that those women harboring a benign cervical HPV viral infection have a 44.6 percent increased risk of having their benign HPV infection converted into a precancerous state by the HPV vaccine administration. Thus women vaccinated with Gardasil not only receive no benefit those who were sexually active before the vaccine administration have become at increased risk for developing cervical cancer.

Read the entire article here.
Hat tip to feminine-genius.

Anyone have any thoughts on any of this? Let me know.