By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

ROME, February 24, 2009 ( – Vatican officials are denouncing plans to artificially inseminate a woman with the sperm of her comatose husband.

Dr. Severino Antinori, who has made a name for himself internationally by doing in vitro fertilizations for women in their 60s, as well as promoting human cloning, now says he will artificially inseminate a woman whose husband is lying unconscious in a hospital, and cannot give his consent.

Although the identity of the couple has not been revealed, the Italian press has stated that the patient is a 35-year-old man with terminal brain cancer.  The two reportedly decided to have a child before he slipped into unconsciousness.

“The consent of both parents is necessary for an act of procreation.  In this case the husband is being treated as a mere receptacle of cells,” said Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy of life in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere. 

Sgreccia also told the newspaper Il Giornale that the procedure will represent a “serious crime” because it violates Italy’s Law 40, requiring the consent of both parents for artificial insemination.

Monsignor Rino Fisichella, current President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Il Giornale that “a child should always be an act of love, not a laboratory experiment.”  The Catholic Church teaches that artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are immoral because they artificially separate procreation from the sexual act that unites the parents.

However, while Italian law states that the consent of both parents is required to carry out an artificial insemination, Dr. Antinori claims that an Italian judge overseeing the case has allowed the man’s father to give permission in his stead, and that the permission has been granted.  He has threatened a defamation suit against several individuals who have accused him of breaking the law.

The Antinori case represents a second bioethics controversy in recent weeks in which an Italian judge has reinterpreted the law to allow procedures previously understood as legally prohibited.  In a similar case earlier this month, the father of a disabled woman, Eluana Englaro, was given permission by Italy’s highest court to starve his severely disabled daughter to death despite laws prohibiting euthanasia.

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