Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
September 27, 2010
Doctor stirs the pot on new technologies
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Catholics must be aware of the ethical implications of using biomedical technologies, warns an Alberta doctor.
With the rapid proliferation of medical technology in all spheres, including medicine, "there is the potential problem of the technology moving ahead of ethical considerations," Dr. Tom Cavanagh warned in a recent interview.
"In our society there is the risk of doing something because it can be done, not necessarily because it should be done."
To avoid that risk, Catholics, above all Catholic physicians, "need guidelines upon which to base decisions when faced with the possibility of using biomedical technologies such as in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and genetic engineering," said Cavanagh.
The Lloydminster anesthetist will speak on the morality concerning new reproductive technologies at the annual meeting of the St. Luke's Physicians Guild Oct. 17 at Providence Renewal Centre.
Cavanagh will base his talk on the Vatican instruction Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of the Person), which was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in late 2008.
The document warned that certain recent developments in stem-cell research, gene therapy and embryonic experimentation reflect an attempt by man to "take the place of his Creator."
It said researchers and other biotech professionals have a duty to refuse to use biological material obtained by unethical means.
Views on the use of these technologies vary from one physician to another, Cavanagh said.
"There are some physicians who I believe question whether it's proper to intervene in some of these areas and I think there are other physicians who do not think very much at all about whether it's right or wrong to do some of these things and I think most physicians are probably somewhere in between."
"The Church, however, teaches that reproduction of human life properly occurs in the conjugal act of husband and wife and to remove it from that context is wrong."
"If technologies assist or facilitate the conjugal act in procreation through that act or correct a medical problem that impairs fertility, then they are morally allowable," Cavanagh continued.
"(But) if we try to involve ourselves in the reproduction of human life or in the destruction of human life, which is one of the problems with embryonic stem cell research, if we take it out of its proper context, then it's not proper to use technologies in that manner."
Cavanagh, a father of eight, began speaking on Dignitas Personae at the request of his pastor, Father Jan Sobkowicz.
"I'm an ordinary guy. I had no knowledge of this document until I was asked by my parish priest to read it and explain it to interested people in our parish," he said.
Dr. Ellen Haggerty, president of the St. Luke's Guild, an association of about 100 Catholic physicians, said Cavanagh was asked to address the guild to make doctors aware of the teaching of the Church.
His talk is expected "to foster some discussion and thought," she said. "These are things that we deal with on a daily basis."
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