PRIMER ON BIOETHICS: Part I of II

130907_master_bioetica_0708_-_th.jpgThe term “bioethics” is of recent coinage. The first to use it was Van Rensselaer of the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960’s, an oncologist who used it in an evolutionary sense somewhat distant from the sense it has acquired. Warren T. Reich, one of the original professors at what was then called the “The Joseph and Rose Kennedy Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and Bioethics” at Georgetown University and editor of the first edition of the 4 volume Encyclopedia of Bioethics, credits André Hellegers, the Dutch obstetrician/fetal physiologist/demographer who founded the Kennedy Institute at Georgetown University as the one “who used the term to apply to the ethics of medicine and the biological sciences in such a way that the name caught on in academic circles and in the mind of the public. He did this initially by seeing to it that the word bioethics appeared in the original name of the Kennedy Institute at its founding in 1971: The Joseph and Rose Kennedy Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and Bioethics” (see Reich’s essay, “How Bioethics Got Its Name” in The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 23, 1993). Read

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Reply to the Jesuit Consortium

christian_new.jpgEarlier this year, seven directors of bioethics programs at Jesuit universities, calling themselves the Consortium of Jesuit Bioethics Programs, published in Commonweal a critique of papal teaching on the moral requirement to provide food and water to patients in the so-called persistent vegetative state (PVS). [1] Their aim is to influence the American bishops against amending the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) to bring the directives in line with the March 2004 teach¬ing of Pope John Paul II on PVS. [2] The amendment will be considered at the bishops’ June 2009 meeting. Read

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NATURE SPEAKS. ARE WE LISTENING?: Geron’s rush to clinical trials using hESCs

christian_new.jpgEven those minimally familiar with the stem cell debate are aware of the vast disparity that presently exists between the clinical usefulness of human adult stem cells (hASCs) and embryonic stem cells (hESCs).  Not only have hESCs, despite billions of dollars spent, not given rise to a single clinical success (none, zero); but until recently, there had not even been a single clinical trial using hESCs accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  This illustrates the concern of that regulatory body and the wider field for the serious problems associated with hESC therapies, the most serious of which is tumor formation. Read

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Human Cloning and the Inimitable Panos Zavos

christian_new.jpgCypriot born reproductive scientist Panos Zavos is up to his old mischief, claiming this time to have cloned 14 human embryos and to have transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women happy to give birth to cloned babies.  This is his third public announcement in six years claiming to have succeeded at the controversial procedure [1].  Zavos, a naturalized American citizen, has fertility clinics in Kentucky and in Cyprus.  The British Independent reports that his present work took place at a secret laboratory in a country where cloning is legal (it speculates somewhere in the Middle East) [2]. Read

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STEM CELLS FOR DUMMIES

christian_new.jpgWhat is a Stem Cell?
A stem cell is an undifferentiated cell (i.e., a cell that has not yet specialized into a particular cell type, e.g., liver cell, pancreatic cell, or cardiac cell) with two unique capacities: the first, for rapid and prolonged self-multiplication into daughter cells identical with itself; and the second, for development and differentiation into specific types of cells such as liver and cardiac cells. Read

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The Different Meanings of Human Acts: Part II

william_e_may.jpgIn a previous essay I presented and criticized the consequentialist understanding of human acts central to the culture of death. Here I will set forth the true understanding of human acts central to the culture of life. This understanding, fully compatible with Christian faith, is also philosophically sound; it is the meaning of human acts undergirding “natural law.”
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Summary and Reflections on DIGNITAS PERSONAE

william_e_may.jpgSeptember 8, 2008 is the official date of a new doctrinal document prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and approved by Pope Benedict XVI on bioethical issues.  It is a sequel to the CDF’s February 1987 doctrinal Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origins and on the Dignity of Procreation (Latin title Donum vitae). Dignitas Personae (henceforth DP), formally released for publication on December 12, 2008, is of a doctrinal nature and falls within the category of documents that "participate in the ordinary Magisterium of the successor of Peter" (see Instruction Donum veritatis, no.18), and is to be received by Catholics "with the religious assent of their spirit" (DP, no. 37).

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The Difference Between a “Right” and a “Liberty”

william_e_may.jpgThe Difference Between a “Right” and a “Liberty” and the Significance of This Difference in Debates over Public Policy on Abortion and Euthanasia

There is a great deal of talk in our society today about “rights.” Frequently, people talk about rights as a two-term relationship between a person (or persons) and a thing or an action. Thus pro-life people affirm the right of the unborn to life, whereas NOW and Planned Parenthood claim the right of women to have an abortion, workers their right to a just wage, smokers their right to smoke, some infertile couples their right to have a child, etc.

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