Howard: Judge science for self
By TOM ENRIGHT
Human dignity extends to more than issues of abortion, according to the planners of this past weekend's Right to Life Collegiate Conference.
The conference, planned and hosted by Notre Dame and Saint Mary's students, presented speakers and workshops on issues ranging from abortion to euthanasia.
Among lectures presented was a discussion of fetal experimentation and bioethics by Father Joseph Howard, director of the American Bioethics Advisory Committee. Speaking of the processes and issues prominent in bioethics today, Howard called upon college students to act as instruments for future policy changes.
"Some argue that science is amoral. Each person subjectively judges science for himself," said Howard, criticizing subjective philosophies that ultimately view humans as objects.
Howard compared today's attitudes toward human life with those found in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."
"The era of Huxley … has arrived and we are living in it as I speak," he said.
Howard described the contemporary beginnings of scientific manipulation of fertilized cells with the beginning of in vitro fertilization. He said that at first this process was heralded as a pro-life science because it helped people to bear children. Describing the process of in vitro fertilization, Howard argued that the process as performed today actually violates natural law.
Howard said that in vitro fertilization violates the intrinsic dignity of human life, citing a case where six parents fought for custody of a child conceived by in vitro fertilization and carried by a host mother. Each life, he said, has a right to natural fertilization.
Howard also noted that because human life begins at conception, the current process used with in vitro fertilization actually kills human life. The current technique for the process involves fertilizing multiple eggs and then selecting those which are potentially most viable for transplant into a mother. Those fertilized embryos deemed unfit for transplant are discarded.
"Each person must be protected from the moment of conception," said Howard.
The techniques and implications of cloning and genetic manipulation also arose during Howard's presentation.
Noting that cloning research could make possible the use of cells for spare organs, Howard said all such actions must be analyzed by the action itself, by the means and ends used.
Cloning, Howard argued, perverts the ideas of personhood. If cloning became a reality, someone could become the daughter of her grandmother or the sister of her mother.
The Human Genome Project, which could soon present the layout of an entire person's genetic makeup, must also come under examination.
Each of us, said Howard, is born with five to 50 genetic errors in our DNA that could become evident as we age. No one is conceived with perfect DNA.
Howard also discussed the implications of stem cell research that could involve removing the brain cells from aborted fetuses. Such cells are used by research institutions for treating dementia associated with HIV. Howard noted alternatives for sources of such cells such as the placenta. Still, he argued, any undifferentiated cell obtained for research that can potentially grow into a complete human violates ethics as well.
While Howard criticized contemporary secularism that "has become a religion in and of itself," he concluded his presentation on a positive note.
"God is calling collegians to work for life," he said.
All News Stories for Monday, April 10, 2000