Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
December 3, 2001
No human being is surplus, say bishops
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The Catholic bishops of Canada say their major concern with the government's draft legislation on assisted human reproduction is that it does not define the human embryo as a human being or protect it with full moral status.
"The Catholic Church believes that human life is God's most gracious gift to us, that each human being is created in the image of God, and that each human being has inherent worth and dignity," said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, chair of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.
He and Jesuit Father Ron Mercier, an ethicist and dean of Regis College at the University of Toronto, presented a brief Nov. 26 to the House of Commons standing committee on health studying the proposed legislation.
The brief, submitted on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, recommended that changes be made to the draft bill to define "embryo and fetus" as human beings and not "human organisms."
The draft bill introduced by Health Minister Allan Rock in May would ban such practices as human cloning and the sale and purchase of human embryos.
It would also prohibit the creation of embryos solely for research purposes and ban genetic alteration, sex selection, the sale of human sperm or eggs and commercial surrogacy.
Mercier, however, noted that the proposed legislation would permit, under licence, embryonic stem cell research on embryos who remain after fertility treatments. Embryonic stem cells are capable of forming virtually any other human tissue and can be used to repair tissue that has degenerated or been destroyed.
"This has understandably excited scientists and raised the hopes of people who live with a variety of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injury," he said.
But he added, "While we would like to support research that has the potential to do so much good, we cannot in this case, because scientists also tell us that deriving the stem cells from the embryo destroys the embryo."
No human being, including the embryo, should ever be used as a means to an end, Mercier said. "No human being, no matter how tiny, can be killed to help another; no human being should ever be considered as 'surplus' or 'spare.'"
The bishops support using adult stem cells for research purposes because it does not result in the death of a human being.
The CCCB's brief also opposed "therapeutic cloning" in the search for cures to degenerative diseases.
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