Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 1, 2002
TV show unlocks ethical issues
Canadian ethicists meet to discuss bioethical concerns
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
A Redemptorist priest who is also a bioethicist suggests the U.S. television program ER may do more to inform Catholics about ethical issues than the Church does.
Father Mark Miller, head of the Redemptorist Bioethical Consultancy in Edmonton, says his experience is that many of the values that people form come from within society as a whole.
ER is a popular TV program often dealing not only with medical issues, but moral and ethical issues as well, within the setting of a hospital emergency room.
Miller was one of several ethicists, moral theologians, health professionals, and others who took part in a seminar on genetic and reproductive technologies March 22, sponsored by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.
The daylong, in-camera meeting included sessions on the biological, theological and moral status of the human embryo. It also had a panel discussion on current issues, such as human cloning and the federal government's draft legislation on assisted human reproduction, expected to be finalized in May.
Several participants were interviewed jointly by CCN at the close of the seminar.
The annual meetings lay the foundations of what actions the Catholic Church in Canada can take in response to the rapidly changing world of genetic and reproductive technologies, said Dr. Bridget Campion, amoral theologian at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto.
Prayer on the topics to be discussed at each annual meeting is also an important part of the process, she said.
"Last year, I wondered why we would be talking about the human embryo this year," she laughed. The debate over human stem cell research is currently controversial due to the March 4 release by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research of guidelines for funding of stem cell research and pending federal legislation on assisted human reproduction.
The CIHR guidelines took effect immediately and allow for public funding of research on human embryos left over from infertility treatment. The Catholic Church is opposed to such research since the embryo, which it considers to be a human being, is killed in the process.
Suzanne Scorsone, who served as a member of the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies, said the government's legislation is expected to deal with not only stem cell research but all aspects of reproductive technology.
"It's important that in going into that legislative process that we not assume that all aspects of the CIHR guidelines are then the baseline from which we will proceed," she said.
"It's very important that Parliament and the democratic process reach conclusions independent of what the CIHR has in fact done," said Scorsone. "Since this affects all human beings, it's important that all citizens have a voice in this."
Sister Mary Lou Cranston, most recently the director of St. Joseph's College Ethics Centre in Edmonton, observed that the field of reproductive technologies is relatively new.
"I would hope this is just the beginning of a conversation," she added. "It's not that 'we've come, we've learned and go home,' but 'we've come, we've learned and we know we need to come back.'"