U.S. Cardinal Wary of Progress to Respect Life

Cites “Ethical Minefield” in Medicine

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The United States’ progress is decidedly mixed in fostering respect for human life, as the “healing arts” slide into an “ethical minefield,” warns Cardinal William Keeler.

“On Respect Life Sunday we reflect on God’s priceless gift of human life,” the cardinal said in a statement issued Friday, two days ahead of the event observed in virtually all U.S. Catholic dioceses.

“The truth that human life has a purpose, given by its Creator, has been a bedrock of Western civilization,” said the cardinal, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities. “This conviction animated our country’s founding documents.”

But the cardinal cited a number of medical and legal developments on the U.S. scene which raise serious ethical concerns:

— “Advances in science and technology have added years to the average lifespan,” Cardinal Keeler said. “Yet our Supreme Court will soon rule on whether Oregon physicians may demand access to federally controlled drugs so they can assist the suicides of sick and elderly patients.”

— “Researchers are unlocking the secrets of the human genome and human stem cells with promising therapeutic results,” he said. “Stem cells from adult tissues and umbilical cord blood can now treat dozens of diseases and may soon treat many more. Still, some persist in pursuing immoral and speculative research using stem cells obtained by killing developing humans in their first week of life.”

— “Reproductive medicine has allowed more couples to overcome barriers to having children of their own,” the archbishop of Baltimore added. “But one reproductive technology, in vitro fertilization is now best known for its tendency to produce ‘spare’ embryos who are frozen and sometimes destroyed for research. And some fertility experts today sort (and reject) embryonic humans to eliminate those with identifiable ‘defects’ — or simply with traits the parents do not prefer.”

— “A profitable niche of the pharmaceutical industry invents ever new ways to block human reproductive capacity, including drugs and devices that may interfere with the survival of a new human life after it has begun.”

“In short, the ‘healing arts’ are moving beyond the field of healing and into an ethical minefield, where technical knowledge can be used as much to demean life as to serve it,” Cardinal Keeler said.

He added: “We know that the truth of human life is infinitely greater than any narrow view that dismisses some lives as disposable. ‘We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution,’ Pope Benedict pointed out at his inaugural Mass. ‘Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.'”

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