ROME, Aug 30 ( – Yesterday, Pope John Paul II spoke at the International Congress of the Transplantation Society, outlining some of the moral guidelines the Roman Catholic Church believes should govern medical research in the 21st century. He endorsed organ donations and adult stem cell study, and condemned human cloning and embryo experiments.

Organ donation is “a genuine act of love,” he said. “Increasingly, the technique of transplants has proven to be a valid means of attaining the primary goal of all medicine the service of human life. That is why in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae I suggested that one way of nurturing a genuine culture of life “is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope” (No. 86).”

Ethical organ donating, he said, requires “informed consent” and procedures must not be commercialized. He appealed to a 1956 statement by Pope Pius XII in addressing xenotransplants, or organ transplants from animals: “In principle, for a xenotransplant to be licit, the transplanted organ must not impair the integrity of the psychological or genetic identity of the person receiving it; and there must also be a proven biological possibility that the transplant will be successful and will not expose the recipient to inordinate risk.”

The pope also broached the controversial subject of brain death with comments that Roman professor Fr. Gonzalo Miranda told Zenit news service have the authority of a magesterial pronouncement. “After asserting that ‘with regard to the parameters used today for ascertaining death … the Church does not make technical decisions,’ he asserts that ‘the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology. Therefore a health-worker… can use these criteria … as the basis for arriving at … ‘moral certainty,’ … the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action’.”

Fr. Miranda told Zenit that even among pro-lifers there has been disagreement: “Some considered it impossible to declare a person dead if his or her heart continued to beat because it was connected to an artificial respirator – even if it was shown with certainty that all brain functions had ceased irreversibly and totally. According to these groups, in this case, the person remains alive, because he or she continues to show certain vital functions, and because there is still a certain degree of integration among the various parts of the organism. Thus, they said, the patient is not a cadaver in which some vital functions remain active (as actually always occurs after death), but rather a living organism, and therefore, a living person.”

Following yesterday’s speech, however, “His teaching leaves no room for doubts,” Fr. Miranda says. However, “The question remains delicate and complex, especially as it refers to the correct anthological understanding alluded to by the Pope. I think that we will have to continue studying this problem, but now, we who sincerely wish to seek the truth and defend human life, and who believe in the doctrinal authority of the Vicar of Christ, have a clear teaching and a clear call to fidelity.”

Speaking about cloning, Pope John Paul said, “methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a view to obtaining organs for transplants: These techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself.” He added: “Science itself points to other forms of therapeutic intervention, which would not involve cloning or the use of embryonic cells, but rather would make use of stem cells taken from adults.” The Transplantation Society conference ends Friday.

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