Committee's Executive plan the year ahead

The Executive of the Bioethics Committee met recently in Glasgow and identified a number of key topics for the consideration of the Committee in the year ahead. These will include:

  • human animal hybrids
  • the particular nature of Catholic Institutions
  • Developments in nanotechnology
  • a framework document on the role of the scientist in society
20th January 2008
Bishop Tartaglia comments on the Human fertilisation and Embryology Bill

In a strongly worded homily preached at St Mirin's Cathedral in paisley, Bishop Philip Tartaglia described the current " Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill" as a " state-sponsored attack on unborn human life". The Bishops' homily coincided with the distribution of a national pastoral letter from all Scotland's Bishops to the Catholic community warning of the dangers of the legislation.

Read the bishop's comments here

14th January 2008
Archbishop Conti comments on the Human fertilisation and Embryology Bill
In a Pastoral Letter to be sent to all 500 Catholic parishes in Scotland this week the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland will urge the Government to allow a free vote in parliament on the forthcoming Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
In the letter, written by Archbishop Mario Conti, President of the Joint Bio-ethics Committee the Bishops recognise, the "right and duty (of MP's) to vote in such issues according to conscience" and point out that many other countries have " drawn the line at human cloning" though regrettably the UK Government has not.
Quoting from a statement by the "Pontifical Academy for Life", the Bishops describe, the fusion of animal and human material resulting in hybrid embryos as a “monstrous act against human dignity.” The full text of the Archbishop's letter is available here.
Bishops of England and Wales issue parish pack on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
The pack can be accessed here through the website of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
Ethical Considerations in the use of human papilloma virus(HPV) vaccines

The Committee considered the widely reported proposal to administer this vaccine to young girls in Britain. Although there did not appear to be ethical problems in the derivation of the vaccine, the Committee was concerned at the age at which the vaccine would be administered. To be effective, it had to be used before the beginning of sexual activity. Providing the vaccine to girls as young as 12 seemed toaccept that such early sexual activity was inevitable when in fact it is both illegal and harmful to those concerned.

Efforts should be made to encourage change in behavioural patterns which accept or encourage early sexual activity. In tackling problems such as obesity, legislators recognise that changes in behaviour patterns are attainable. We believe that changes in patterns of sexual behaviour are also possible given sufficient commitment and resources.

For a more detailed consideration of this matter, click here to read an article prepared for the Committee by one of its members, Father Daniel Fitzpatrick.

Press Release - 3rd April 2007 - Stem cell breakthrough

Catholic bioethicists have warmly welcome news of a recent breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease using adult stem cells. Scientists led by Sir Magdi Yacoub have grown part of a human heart from adult stem cells in a breakthrough that offers hope for millions of cardiac patients.  

The news has been welcomed by the Catholic Bishops Joint Bioethics Committee - the group of experts form the Catholic Church in Britain and Ireland charged with monitoring bioethical issues. 

Fr Paul Murray, secretary of the Joint Bio-Ethics Committee said: "Sir Magdi and his team generated the heart tissue from stem cells found in the bone marrow. The technique is ethical because the stem cells were taken from the patient's own bone marrow rather than from an embryo in the first few days of life.  

"Because they are derived from the patient's own bone marrow, the production of these stem cells does not involve the destruction of embryos involved in some other forms of research. This aspect of the latest news is most significant and welcome. As yet it has not received the attention it deserves. 

"This development vindicates the consistently held position of the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Bioethics Committee. Many experts in the field have long maintained that the greatest potential for actual cures lay with adult rather than embryonic stem cells.  

"In view of this and many other concrete results using adult stem cells, let us leave behind us once and for all the fruitless and destructive research on embryonic stem cells.