CCCB Plenary Meeting: Bishops Study the Challenges of Bioethics

Thursday, September 20 2001

(CCCB — Cornwall) The bishops of Canada, gathered for their annual Plenary meeting in Cornwall, Ontario, yesterday considered some of the ethical questions raised by the spectacular advances in genetic research.

For the past two years, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), has organized forums for scientists, bishops, ethicists and theologians to reflect on the challenges raised in this rapidly changing area. Those reflections formed the basis of the presentation to the Plenary meeting in order to help make the bishops more aware of the moral issues that biotechnology raises.

The presentation was led by Archbishop Bertrand Blanchet of Rimouski, a biologist by training. He was aided by Dr. François Pothier, a professor from Laval University in Quebec City and a specialist in animal reproduction, and Dr. Bridget Campion, assistant professor in moral theology at St. Augustine’s
Seminary in Toronto.

Dr. Pothier outlined the main scientific discoveries in such areas as animal transgenics, where genes have been modified, and xenotransplantation, where animal organs are used in humans. He noted it is primordial to reflect on the moral and ethical impacts being raised by the many new technological changes. “ People are asking themselves where is human dignity when you can transplant a pig’s heart into a human being,” he said.

Dr. Bridget Campion raised the question of what will eventually be the fate of human embryos that result from in vitro fertilization. The stem cells from these children yet to be born could be used to reproduce healthy cells that would eventually be used to correct abnormalities, find cures for illnesses or repair defective genes. The danger, she said is that these living beings would then be considered as a source of “spare parts”.

Other Plenary News