Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 1999
High school students ponder puzzles of bioethics
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Part of the problem with science today, said students at a day-long bioethics course, is that people want "to take God's job away."
"Science can be good, but it can also be a bad thing," said Christina Hardie, 15. "The cloning and test tube babies. It's people who try to do what God does."
The Holy Trinity High School student joined 62 other students from as far as Prince George, B.C., at the Nov. 19 course led by Sister Mary Lou Cranston, director of the St. Joseph's College Ethics Centre.
The course is part of the Littlemore Program at Newman Theological College. The program offers resources, learning workshops and programs for teachers and students to understand their faith.
Throughout the day, Cranston talked about issues ranging from human cloning to euthanasia. Despite the Catholic environment, religion played a minor role in the ethical issues.
"This is natural moral law," Cranston said. "You don't need to talk to these students about this by Bible thumping."
By not throwing Scriptures and Bible text into the program, Cranston believes the talk drew in more students during discussion periods and that it better prepares the students to face the issues in a secular society.
Health and science made up the bulk of the discussions. Cranston chose these topics because some of the students represent the next generation of movers and shakers in science and health.
"These are issues facing them now and facing them in the future,"she said. "They will be part of their lives for many years."
One issue caught in heated discussion was abortion.
One student thought it would be better to have abortions than unwanted and neglected children in the world. Another student claimed abortion is a selfish decision made by a mother with no regard for the child she is carrying.
It's an issue Sheryl Tucker feels is the hottest topic among her peers.
"I think it's something really wrong," said Tucker, 15, a student at Holy Trinity. "It's something more people our age are dealing with. In our generation, we have to come up with stricter rules."
Ethics is at the core of everyone's action, or at least it should be, said Marc Velasco, 16, and Jeannine Holwill, 15, students from Bishop O'Grady High School in Prince George.
"Science is happening so fast, people don't know how to handle it," Holwill said. "You really need to stop and look at whether you're helping people or hurting them."
Velasco added, "Sometimes you think you're helping, but you're doing more harm."
Many students hunger to discuss bioethical issues, but are rarely given the opportunity. Cranston said there are few venues where students can talk about such issues among their peers and/or with a professional.
"This isn't something they can ask in religion class," she said. "It's something not a lot of teachers talk about."
It's not that teachers shy away from these issues, but Cranston said many of them are neither prepared nor trained to deal with them.
"Three (students) came to me after we talked about (in vitro fertilization) and they said 'I wish you could come to our school to talk to us about this.'"
The course wasn't a means to provide answers, but a medium to ask questions. The discussions were more of a building block for students who "can now make more mature decisions," Cranston said.