Stem cell decisions should be made in public realm

  • April 29, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - The debate over how, when, where and whether scientists should be allowed to experiment on human embryonic stem cells should not be left in the hands of bureaucrats, academics and scientists, London Bishop Ron Fabbro said at a Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute conference for doctors April 27.

"All of us are drawn into this," Fabbro, a bioethicist, told The Catholic Register after speaking to a group of about 60 doctors and other health care professionals from across the province at the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto. "These are questions of public policy, and the public policy is determined in the public forum. We all need to be involved in that."

The Catholic conviction that human lives, including embryonic human lives, cannot be sacrificed even for great advances in medical science often gets a rough ride, Fabbro told the doctors.

"The climate is strongly in favour of stem cell research and dismisses opposition as oddities of fundamentalist religion," he said.

Money and the scientific imperative to pursue all possible experimental avenues drives stem cell research forward heedless of ethical concerns, said Fabbro.

"When you read that the state of California has given $3 billion to this, you know what's going on here," he said.

While many may feel intimidated by the science, the principle of protecting human life still applies, according to the bishop.

"Things are changing so rapidly. I don't know whether the debate can be won or not," he said. "I think it is important for people of faith to bring their strongly held convictions to this, and not be discouraged."

The Basilian bishop once taught moral theology at the University of St. Michael's College. Speaking not far from classrooms where he once taught, Fabbro urged his audience to read and distribute the Catholic Organization for Life and Family's publication Stem Cells: Astonishing Promises... But At What Cost? The eight-page summary of the Catholic position on stem cell research can be downloaded for free from

Other speakers at the weekend-long conference included Iain Benson, a lawyer who is executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal, who spoke on conscientious objection, and Jesuit Father Myles Sheehan, who is also a doctor. He spoke on end-of-life issues. A number of workshops were held throughout the weekend.

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