I have spent the last few days in Rome at the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress on Eugenics. These are some basic comments I have made about the Congress. A further report will be available later.
The Pontifical Academy for Life Congress focused on the problem of Eugenics. The Congress explored the historical reality of Eugenics and they delved into the New Eugenics that has become a common problem with relation to genetic screening, eugenic abortion - of all types, and eugenic attitudes towards people with disabilities that are leading to euthanasia and medical descrimination related to end-of-life care.
It is important to note that the Pontifical Academy for Life is attempting to examine how the New Eugenics are related to a specific negation of the nature of the human person as a being with true dignity. Equality and human dignity will only effectively be maintained when the human person is respected as a unique individual who is not judged by his/her utility, but rather for their innate nature as a human person.
When we judge the individual based on utilitarian ethics, we ignore the reality that each person is unique and deserving of respect.
My concerns are related to euthanasia, assisted suicide and end-of-life care and how the new eugenics is changing attitudes.
The Congress examined the growth of discrimination in relation to the care or lack of care that is often provided for newborns with disabilities. There appears to be a growing reality that newborns with disabilities are not treated with equality, even when their conditions can be effectively treated. This has led to the acceptance of the Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands that allows for the euthanasia of newborns with disabilities.
If we consider the growing attitude that is leading to the non-treatment of children with disabilities and the social shift towards euthanasia, it is clear that organizations that represent people with disabilities will need to refocus their efforts from primarily being concerned with life opportunities to becoming more concerned about the opportunity live.
Text of the article in Reuters concerning the Pope's speech to the Congress:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters)- Feb 21, 2009
(Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Robert Woodward)
Pope Benedict said on Saturday there were worrying signs of a new type of eugenics based on perfection and physical beauty.
"Certainly, the eugenistic and racial ideologies that in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity," the pope said in a speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
"So it tends to privilege the capacity to operate, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty at the expense of other types of existence considered unworthy."
Eugenics is a belief in the possibility of improving the human race by weeding out those with what are considered undesirable traits and encouraging procreation by those with desirable traits.
The pope also spoke out against reducing humans to an object of "experimental manipulation" and allowing biotechnology to "surrender to the will of the strongest."
Pope Benedict has condemned genetic engineering and other scientific practices that allow people to select so-called "designer babies" by screening them for defects.
The Vatican considers pre-implantation diagnosis of embryos to avoid genetic defects or select for qualities like gender morally unacceptable. It is also against genetic enhancement for purposes other than medical treatment.
Link to the article on Reuters: