(Reuters) - Following are excerpts from a Vatican document on bioethics released on Friday that spells out Roman Catholic teaching on scientific and medical procedures dealing with human reproduction. “The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great “yes” to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world.
“The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells.
“The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life ... This ethical principle ... should be the basis for all legislation in this area.
“With regard to the treatment of infertility, new medical techniques must respect three fundamental goods: a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death; b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse; c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require “that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.”
“In order to come to the aid of the many infertile couples who want to have children, adoption should be encouraged, promoted and facilitated by appropriate legislation.
“The blithe acceptance of the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure ... leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being.
“The desire for a child cannot justify the ‘production’ of offspring, just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.
“Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos ... The majority of embryos that are not used remain ‘orphans’ ... Proposals to use these embryos for research or for the treatment of disease are obviously unacceptable because they treat the embryos as mere ‘biological material’ and result in their destruction ... The thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.
“Embryo reduction is an intentional selective abortion ... and as such it always constitutes a grave moral disorder.
“Anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.
“Preimplantation diagnosis ... is directed toward the qualitative selection and consequent destruction of embryos, which constitutes an act of abortion. Preimplantation diagnosis is therefore the expression of a eugenic mentality.
“Human cloning is intrinsically illicit ... From the ethical point of view, so-called therapeutic cloning is even more serious. To create embryos with the intention of destroying them, even with the intention of helping the sick, is completely incompatible with human dignity.
“With regard to the ethical evaluation, it is necessary to consider the methods of obtaining stem cells as well as the risks connected with their clinical and experimental use ... Methods which do not cause serious harm to the subject from whom the stem cells are taken are to be considered licit. This is generally the case when tissues are taken from: a) an adult organism; b) the blood of the umbilical cord at the time of birth; c) fetuses who have died of natural causes. The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo, on the other hand, invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit.
“Research initiatives involving the use of adult stem cells, since they do not present ethical problems, should be encouraged and supported.”
A shortened Vatican version of the document can be found here