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21. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Gwyneth Spaeder, MD Bad Science Hurts Catholic Physicians
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Good intentions have propelled conservative-minded scientists and medical practitioners to argue that certain medical interventions may have dangerous and unintended consequences. Such positions are motivated by a hope that showing the negative consequences of immoral acts, such as abortion and sexual promiscuity, will help curtail the behavior. Unfortunately, when these positions are supported by faulty science—as are claims of a reputed link between certain vaccines and autism, and questions about the safety of the human papillomavirus vaccine, for example—they weaken the already tenuous relationship between Catholic medical professionals and the generally liberal scientific establishment.
22. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
E. Christian Brugger Catholic Hospitals and Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Reply to Bayley and Gremmels
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Catholic health care institutions presently face the question of whether it would be morally legitimate for them to participate in sex reassignment surgery for patients suffering from gender dysphoria. This essay replies to two articles published on this question in the Winter 2016 issue of the Catholic health care journal Health Care Ethics USA. It argues that both articles fail to attend to factors necessary for an adequate moral assessment of the question, and thus provide inadequate solutions. It goes on to argue that it would be intrinsically wrong for Catholic hospitals to counsel or perform sex reassignment surgery if in so doing they affirmed certain widely held erroneous assumptions about the nature of sex and gender. The essay ends by asking whether, if those erroneous assumptions were clearly and publically rejected, it could ever be licit to per­form surgical amputations or plastic surgical reconstructions to assist persons suffering from severe and intractable cases of gender dysphoria.
23. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Mary Shivanandan Relativism or Relativity: Religious Freedom and the Family
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This article addresses the issue of whether the Church has the right, even the duty, to inform public debate on reproductive issues. It argues that to deny this right is an infringement of religious freedom. Drawing on the writings of Pope St. John Paul II, it shows how truth, freedom, and the good are intrinsically related. Legislating against the good of human life detaches it from both truth and freedom. When secularism separates freedom from any relationship with God, it tends toward individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism. The relativism at the heart of Roe v. Wade, which enshrined abortion in the Constitution, struck a blow at the dignity of the human person and the family. If the child is seen as an object to be manipulated, not a gift, a pseudo freedom prevails, which ignores the relational character of the human person. This endangers not only the family, but democracy itself.
24. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Graciela Ortiz The Ethics of Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking
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Encouraging VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking) to hasten a patient’s death is immoral. The practice results in an obvious conflict between the autonomy of the patient and the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence that must guide the physician and other health care workers. Because VSED is an act of passive euthanasia, it harms the patient and thus compromises the integrity of the physician–patient relationship. Health care providers must avoid any involvement in VSED, whether by providing information about the practice or by administering palliative care while a patient is voluntarily starving and dehydrating himself to death. Instead of cooperating in the evil of euthanasia, health care providers need to advocate for the patient by refusing to do any harm and by addressing the reasons why the patient is requesting a hastened death.
25. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Katarina Lee Ethical Implications of Permitting Mitochondrial Replacement
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Mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRTs) have made headlines as some countries have passed legislation permitting the creation of “three-parent embryos” and because of the recent revelation that a child has already been born following the use of these techniques. MRTs assist women with severe mitochondrial disease to have children who are free from mitochondrial disease. Essentially, the mitochondrial DNA of an ovum or embryo is removed and replaced with the mtDNA of a donor. The purpose of this paper is to argue that MRTs are ethically impermissible but greater regulation is needed. There are five parts to this paper: (1) a brief history of mitochondrial manipulation, (2) a description of the MRT process, (3) ethical arguments in opposition to MRTs, (4) relevant counterarguments, and (5) a proposal for increased regulation.
26. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
The National Catholic Bioethics Center Brief Statement on Transgenderism
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The claim that it is possible to change one’s sex, or that sexual identity is fluid, contradicts scientific evidence, reason, the nature of the human person, and key tenets of the Catholic faith. A small number of persons claiming to be “transgender” mistakenly believe that their true self and sexual identity contradict the sex of their bodies. They frequently experience profound suffer­ing due to intense psychological distress and due to the challenges of forming a healthy self-identity and basic human relationships, including friendships and marriage. Hormonal and surgical interventions, and other behaviors and practices that attempt to validate mistaken beliefs to relieve distress and suffering, are inappropriate responses to their condition. Persons claiming to be transgender must be accompanied on their difficult journey with true charity, and should be offered ethical, effective therapies based on sound anthropology and scientific evidence. The National Catholic Bioethics Center offers considerations to facilitate appropriate efforts to accompany and to help such persons.
27. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
William F. Sullivan, John Heng Promoting Mental Health: IACB Statement toward a Shared Medical and Christian Ethical Framework
28. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Gerard V. Bradley The Future of Abortion Law in the United States
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In 1971, Judith Jarvis Thomson published what was then and still often is regarded as a trailblazing philosophical defense of a woman’s right to have a lawful abortion. It is time to revisit Thomson’s paper. The aim here is not to engage Thomson’s pro-choice conclusions, which are indeed mistaken, but to show that her question—to what extent can abortion be morally justified, assuming that it is the deliberate killing of one person by his or her mother—is the question today in American law concerning abortion. Pro-life people and groups argue among themselves about the prudence of political efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade by personhood initiatives, that is, by seeking to enact laws expressly recognizing that a human being with an equal right not to killed comes to be at fertilization, thereafter to pursue abortion restrictions as a matter of equal protection for all against unjustified uses of lethal force. Many if not most pro-life activists and bodies oppose such efforts as precipitous and almost certainly politically counterproductive. This article argues that, on the contrary, the unborn are already recognized as persons with a right not to be killed, and that the constitutional question of equal protection of unborn persons is already in the courts. Thomson’s question is, in other words, ripe and urgent, and it has been brought to the fore not by direct attack upon abortion rights, but indirectly by and through the many feticide laws enacted across the country since around the year 2000.
29. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 16 > Issue: 4
Jos V. M. Welie, William F. Sullivan, John Heng The Value of Palliative Care: IACB Guidelines for Health Care Facilities and Individual Providers Facing Permissive Laws on Physician Assistance in Suicide and Euthanasia
30. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco Healthier than Healthy: The Moral Case for Therapeutic Enhancement
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How should we morally evaluate protocols to edit the human genome? In this essay, the author argues that the therapy–enhancement distinction commonly used in debates over genetic engineering is not a robust one. Using the example of lipid-lowering pharmacological interventions, he argues that a strong case can be made for the morality of therapeutic enhancements that blur the distinction between therapy and enhancement. He proposes, therefore, that the therapy–enhancement distinction should be replaced by a therapy–nontherapy distinction that acknowledges that some beneficial and morally acceptable therapies are enhancements. However, the benefits–burdens distinction should also be deployed, as it commonly is with other technologies that affect the human person, alongside the therapy–nontherapy distinction, to judge whether a particular technological intervention to edit an individual’s genome should be permitted or not. Gene editing to make patients healthier than healthy should be allowed.
31. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Paul Scherz The Mechanism and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9
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The recently developed CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology is transforming basic biomedical research, but it also may have therapeutic applications. This essay examines how the technology works, its possible applications in somatic and germline cell therapy, and the use of gene drives to control disease vectors like mosquito-borne illnesses. While potentially valuable, all of these applications present ethical problems, including the specific risks of unintentional mutations; pre-existing concerns over the relationship between biomedical technology, power, and procreation; and CRISPR’s unintended consequences for the environment.
32. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Joseph Tham Resisting the Temptation of Perfection
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With the advance of CRISPR technology, parents will be tempted to create superior offspring who are healthier, smarter, and stronger. In addition to the fact that many of these procedures are considered immoral for Catholics, they could change human nature in radical and possibly disastrous ways. This article focuses on the question of human perfectionism. First, by considering the relationship between human nature and technology, it analyzes whether such advances can improve human nature in addition to curing diseases. Next, it looks at the moral and spiritual dimensions of perfection by analyzing the cardinal virtues. It argues that seeking perfection in the physical sense alone may not be prudent or wise and may produce greater injustices and weaken the human spirit in the long run. Understanding our true calling to perfection can help us resist the temptation of hubris to enhance the human race through technology.
33. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Jennifer A. Doudna Rewriting the Code of Life: CRISPR Technology and Its Impact on the Future of Humanity
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DNA encodes the information necessary for life, but sometimes this code also leads to disease. Scientists have long envisioned the ability to change the DNA sequence in cells to correct disease-causing information. A technology known as CRISPR now enables precise rewriting of DNA sequences, offering unparalleled potential for altering the code of life in human beings as well as other organisms. CRISPR technology holds the promise of curing genetic disease and provides methods to reshape the biosphere for the benefit of human societies and the environment. However, along with these enormous opportunities come safety risks and ethical concerns. This article discusses the uses of CRISPR technology, its potential applications, and the actions we must take to prepare for future developments.
34. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
David A. Prentice The Genetic Engineering of Animals and Plants and the Boundaries of Stewardship
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Genetic engineering can change the biology of a plant or animal by altering its genome. Historically, selective breeding, induced mutation, and screening have been used to adapt animals and plants for human uses. The advent of specific, more accurate gene editing systems, coupled with cellular and embryological systems for selecting genetically engineered organisms, provides even greater possibilities for altering animals and plants to meet human needs but necessitates an analysis of when and how such tools should be used. Bioethical questions concerning the reasonableness of a genetic experiment, the well-being of the modified organism, the integrity of a species and the environment, and the potential benefit to humans should be addressed before any genetic manipulations are undertaken. Animals and plants can be genetically engineered ethically, but certain lines should not be crossed if we are to be good stewards.
35. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
David Albert Jones Editing Out the Embryo: The Debates over Human Genome Editing in the United Kingdom and the United States
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Two conferences on genome editing held in December 2015 offer a lens through which to contrast bioethics policies in the United Kingdom and the United States. The Progress Educational Trust, which has no parallel in the United States, hosted the London conference and illustrates the close collaboration between government departments, scientific bodies, funding organizations, and lobby groups in the United Kingdom. The rhetoric of responsible regulation used in the United Kingdom protects not the embryo, but the practice of embryo destruction, and advocates of embryo experimentation are eager to guide the debate about genome editing. It would be perilous for the international community to allow the United Kingdom to frame the debate in this way.
36. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Kevin FitzGerald Human Genome Editing: A Catholic Perspective
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With this power to edit our own genes comes the enormous responsibility to determine if, when, how, and why we should, or should not, employ this technology. This article addresses this responsibility from the perspective of the moral tradition and reasoning of the Catholic Church. Past, present, and possible future positions of the Catholic Church regarding human genome manipulation are analyzed in light of the fundamental values that undergird Catholic ethical reasoning, and the significant contributions the Catholic perspective can bring to global deliberations on the responsible use of human genome editing are identified. These contributions represent both opportunities and obligations for the Catholic Church in its continuing tradition of providing health care around the world, especially to those who are the most vulnerable and most in need.
37. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
William L. Saunders Washington Insider
38. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Matthew Dugandzic, Becket Gremmels, Francis Etheredge Colloquy
39. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Stephen L. Mikochik Broken to the Hope: The Right to Life, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Act
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The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a landmark international agreement recognizing the rights and equal status of disabled people. States Parties commit to protect the right to life of all such people and to promote their equal dignity. Canada ratified the convention in 2010. However, Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Act, which received royal assent in 2016, allows for assisted suicide and euthanasia of those dis­abled people who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition. This essay contends that the act violates Canada’s treaty obligations not to enact legislation inconsistent with the convention by jeopardizing the right to life of such people and placing them in a significantly unequal status within Canadian society.
40. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
John A. Di Camillo Gender Transitioning and Catholic Health Care
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This essay discusses basic concepts that Catholic health care ministries should understand concerning so-called gender-transitioning interven­tions. Since genuine healing encompasses the whole person, transgender issues must be addressed in the full realistic terms of a body–soul union not merely in relation to experienced desires and feasible physiological modifications. For necessary clarity, the essay explains key distinctions between the terms disorders of sex development, gender dysphoria, and transgender. It argues that only bodily acceptance efforts can offer authentic healing in response to gender dysphoria, while all forms of gender transitioning, from psychological counsel­ing to cross-sex hormones and surgical “reassignment,” always contradict the good of the whole person. The essay concludes by emphasizing the significance of the educational role of Catholic health care and its call to witness even in the face of problematic recommendations by respected medical associations.