Today the Vatican issued a controversial document titled “Dignitas Personae,” or “The Dignity of the Person,” outlining the Church’s official positions on issues relating to biomedical technology. Among the topics addressed are stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, genetic testing and human cloning, all of which the Church opposes. According to the Vatican, such techniques undermine the sacredness of every human life and the importance of natural conception by married couples.
The document was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and approved by Pope Benedict XVI, and is intended for instruction to Roman Catholics as well as consideration by doctors, researchers, scientists and legislators. According to the document, the intended audience consists of “all who seek the truth,” but already it is drawing criticism. In an interview with the Washington Post, Glenn McGee, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Bioethics, accused Pope Benedict of carrying out “a broad attack on American technology.”
McGee went on to say, “All bioethics journal editors are seeing a trend. We always talk about: Where did all the religious figures go who write about bioethics? Catholics in particular.”
But others, like Maureen L. Condic at the University of Utah School of Medicine, are optimistic about the document. According to the Washington Post, Condic said, "I think we are entering very rapidly into an age of great scientific potential and an age of great scientific peril. Science is advancing to the point of refashioning human nature and utilizing human beings in a variety of different contexts. I think this should raise grave concerns for any person who believes that humans have intrinsic dignity."
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In its 32 detailed pages, Dignitas Personae reinforces much of what the church established in its last bioethics document—“Donum Vitae,” from 1987—and addresses many recent innovations like the morning-after pill and RU 486, both of which are described as being tantamount to abortion. The authors of Dignitas Personae insist, however, that the document is not an affront to science, but rather seeks “to encourage biomedical research respectful of the dignity of every human being and of procreation.”?
Click here to read the document on the Vatican website.
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