(Pewaukee, Wis) The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) wishes to
commend President Bush for having the moral courage to prohibit the
destruction of the innocent living human beings who remain frozen in IVF
clinics, or who may be produced by cloning, and we welcome and applaud
this part of the President's decision.
Pope John Paul II's statement to the President last month confirmed
the Catholic Church's consistent moral teaching that it is always
morally evil to intentionally and directly kill any innocent human being
- regardless of any perceived "personhood" status. The Church has
applied this teaching to human life from fertilization through
adulthood: "In reality, respect for human life is called for from the
time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum
is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father or of
the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own
growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. ...
To this perpetual evidence, perfectly independent of the discussions on
the moment of animation, modern genetic science brings valuable
confirmation" (Declaration on Procured Abortion). Yet the
Church reiterates that, "the human being is to be respected and treated
as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that
moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the
first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to
life. ... [S]ince the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also
be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for to the extent
possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical
assistance is concerned" (Donum Vitae).
The CMA also concurs with the President's decision to give more
federal funds for ethical research that has already proven clinically
successful in many human diseases, e.g., the use of adult stem cells,
and stem cells from placenta and cord blood.
As Catholic physicians we also know that the Church teaches that the
means used to reach important medical and health goals through
experimentation must be good in themselves as well. To destroy living
human embryos, who are living innocent human beings, as the means
of deriving useful human embryonic stem cells for others' medical and
health benefits would necessarily be an inherently evil action: "This
moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human
embryos and fetuses - sometime specifically "produced" for this purpose
by in vitro fertilization - either to be used as "biological
material" or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the
treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures,
even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely
unacceptable act" (Evangelium Vitae). It is never morally licit
to do evil that good may come of it.
However, serious concerns remain with the President's decision and
elements of it that we cannot support and, in fact, reject: ·
are concerned that the President missed a golden opportunity to use
his bully pulpit as the moral and political leader of the free world
by not simply acknowledging up front the correct objective
scientific facts of human embryology that have been known for over a
hundred years: that human embryos are human beings from
fertilization on. This is a long-established objective scientific
fact, and would have helped to raise his decision above politics and
subjective personal opinions. ·
are concerned that the President did not take this opportunity to
ban the destruction of innocent human lives in research using both
private and public funds as well.
are concerned that the President's decision has essentially revoked
the current Congressional ban on human embryo research.
are concerned that even the use of the product of such killing is
somehow perceived as morally acceptable, as with the President's
acceptance of the use of already existing human embryonic stem cell
lines. Such use remains morally complicit in the original act of the
killing of those innocent human beings, an action which is
equivalent to direct abortion: "[T]he moral requirements must be
safeguarded, that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and
that the risk of scandal be avoided" (Donum Vitae).
are concerned that the President failed to addressed the very real
scientific possibility that these human embryonic stem cell lines
which already exist could contain new whole living human embryos
produced in vitro through the natural process of
"regulation" (such as happens in natural human monozygotic twinning,
and in animals in vitro and in vivo). The
intentional killing of these culture-produced living human embryos
would constitute a grave moral action as well.
are concerned that by ignoring the morality of complicity, the
President has established a political wedge that can be exploited
later if the need for even more human embryonic stem cell lines for
"better health care" is demanded by science and patients alike.
Indeed, the chorus has already begun.
are concerned that such denial of moral complicity also opens the
financial floodgates on Wall Street, encouraging even further
exploitation of these most vulnerable of innocent human beings as
mere biological commodities. Financial conflicts of interests exist
Thus, although there is much to be applauded in the President's
decision, there are elements that must be rejected. As a result, many
concerns and unanswered questions remain for the Catholic Medical
Association and for our Catholic physicians.