Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 18, 2002
New minister, old problem
The appointment of Anne MacLellan as Canada's health minister threatens to further delay the long-overdue law to control reproductive technologies. A new minister is being handed this portfolio and the reproductive technology draft bill which showed little concern for the value of human life but lots of concern for people who might make a dollar off of the manipulation of human life.
A final bill was to have been presented to the House of Commons early in 2002. With a new minister, we have no assurance it will ever come forward.
At the moment, Canada has no laws governing this area. Surrogate parenthood, human cloning, creating embryos for research purposes, gender selection and embryonic stem cell research are all entirely permissible under Canadian law. These practices should be banned, concluded the 1993 royal commission headed by geneticist Patricia Baird.
It is also the conclusion of the Catholic Church.
On Feb. 3, Pope John Paul spoke strongly in favour of legal protection for the human embryo. "Science has by now demonstrated the human embryo is an individual human being that possesses its own identity from the moment of fertilization," the pope said. "Therefore, it is logically due that such identity be recognized legally, too, above all in its fundamental right to life."
This is only common sense for a nation that makes human dignity one of its fundamental tenets. Yet the government is being subjected to intense lobbying by powerful interests that stand to make millions of dollars if these Brave New World forms of reproductive technology remain legal.
The government also hears the argument that the reproductive industries would not be hindered in their work if Canada banned their practices. They would simply move to some country that would give them permission to continue their experiments.
The more basic question is: What sort of country do we want to be? Does Canada want to make the almighty dollar its god, no matter how bloodstained those dollars be?
Or, does Canada want to show respect for human dignity, even if other countries refuse to do so?
In his remarks, Pope John Paul said, "No one is a master over life. No one has the right to manipulate, oppress or even remove life, whether someone else's or his own."
For the past nine years, the Canadian government has said scientists are the masters of human life, that parents have the right to a child even if it is carried by a surrogate mother or conceived through in vitro fertilization. It has said it is OK to clone humans or to create embryos solely for research purposes.
It has said all these things through negligence - through a failure to act. Preston Manning had said the draft bill "will be one of the most important that this 37th Parliament will examine."
Manning is gone now, but the opportunity for action is not.
When MacLellan received her new post, the threats to medicare were likely foremost in her mind. But the issue of reproductive technology goes at least as deep as medicare in reflecting the soul of the nation.
May she speedily enact legislation that pays far more heed to human dignity than it does to those who hunger to put a price tag on human life.
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