Dr Pascoal Carvalho addressed the 21st convention of India’s Catholic nurses in Mumbai. He spoke about the ethical aspects of genetic engineering, citing the doctrine of the Church towards human cloning and stem cells. Respect for human dignity must prevail “from conception to natural death”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Medical innovation, which increasingly uses modern technologies to improve life, should not “attempt to artificially replicate creation,” said Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a doctor from Mumbai and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, speaking at the 21st convention of Catholic nurses (8-10 November).
In his address on 9 November, he referred to therapeutic cloning, stem cells and modified human DNA before an audience of more than 200 Catholic health workers.
"[W]e can rest assured in the wisdom of the Church," he said, because for her, “The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death.”
Some areas of medical research that raise serious moral and ethical questions touch stem cells, embryos and DNA.
In his view, today “There is a growing threat of overestimating genetic modification techniques and underestimating the repercussions of cloning and human gene therapy.”
On the one hand, we have the positive results of therapeutic cloning aimed at organ and tissues reconstructed in laboratory for transplanting into patients to reduce the risk of rejection; on the other, reproductive cloning, like in the case of Dolly the sheep, seeks to reproduce living beings.
He warns against research that leads to alterations in an organism’s DNA, like the famous case of the Chinese scientist who in 2018 said that he had created two twins in the laboratory immune to the HIV virus. This kind of experiment can reduce life expectancy and increase “susceptibility to other, and perhaps more common, diseases.”
The doctor cites the Dignitas Personae, which defines any attempt at human cloning as unacceptable, because it represents “a serious offense to the dignity of the person and fundamental equality between men”.
As for therapeutic cloning, “To create embryos with the intention of destroying them, even with the intention of helping the sick, is completely incompatible with human dignity, because it makes the existence of a human being at the embryonic stage nothing more than a means to be used and destroyed. It is gravely immoral to sacrifice a human life for therapeutic ends.”
Citing the doctrine of the Church, Dr Carvalho stresses the importance of the method with which stem cells are taken. In his view, “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) foetuses who have died of natural causes.”
Overall, the doctor believes that modern gene technologies raise new moral questions, whilst attempts to create a new type of human being contains an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator.