Science Must Advance with Ethical Guidance, Says Bishop Sgreccia

Addresses Pontifical Academy for Life

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 ( Science cannot be without ethical judgment because research in areas such as biomedicine and biotechnology can have consequences for everyone, says a Vatican official.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, expressed this conviction Wednesday when he addressed the closing phase of the works of the 9th General Assembly. The assembly focused on the theme “Ethics in Biomedical Research.”

Bishop Sgreccia observed that the magisterium of the Church counts on the contribution of scientists and researchers — who are responsible for operating within determined ethical margins, and who should keep man at the center “as subject and beneficiary of research.”

The Vatican official stressed that the freedom and autonomy of scientists is not questioned by the Church’s anthropological view because “the values are not foreign to freedom.”

In this connection, Bishop Sgreccia affirmed that “man must be responsible for his neighbor and work oriented to the good of the one next to him.”

This view, applied to the sphere of bioethics and research in the genetic field, implies that “one cannot uphold” the thesis of the autonomy of science in regard to ethical judgment because “research in the biomedical and biotechnological sector can have dimensions and consequences of planetary relevance,” he explained.

“The consent of individuals subjected to experiments, the duty of the state to promote research, the necessity of links between public and private research institutions, and respect for minorities [are] … other elements that must influence the appraisal of scientific research policies,” the bishop stressed.

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