Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut
Friday, August 18, 2017

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk

Father Tad Pacholczyk

Making Sense of Bioethics

Kim Davis, the now-famous clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who became known for her refusal to issue marriage licenses, was arrested and incarcerated in September of 2015. She had refused to affix her signature to licenses being sought by two people of the same sex, even after the Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage, noting that this would force her to act against her conscience and her deeply held religious convictions. Her resolve to stop issuing licenses under these circumstances needs to be grasped for what it really is, namely, a morally coherent course of action that respects the authentic nature of marriage and recognizes the duties of an informed conscience.

Making Sense of Bioethics

In recent years, scientists in industry and academia have come to rely on freshly obtained human tissue specimens for certain types of research and experimentation. Sometimes these tissues and organs can be obtained after routine surgeries like gall bladder removal from adults or foreskin removal during the circumcision of newborns. The use of such tissues and organs can be morally acceptable if the patient (or the parents of the newborn) provide informed consent. The use of cells and tissues from fetuses can also be morally acceptable when those cells are obtained from a natural miscarriage, and the parents provide consent. This would be equivalent to consenting to an organ donation from their deceased child.

Making Sense of Bioethics

The famous Olympian Bruce Jenner made headlines recently when he told ABC News, “For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman… That female side is part of me. That’s who I am.” He has been receiving hormonal treatments to acquire feminine traits, and is not yet sure whether he will undergo surgery to “complete” the process. His dramatic case raises important ethical and medical concerns about properly understanding our identity and respecting the given order of our bodies.

Making sense of bioethics

Both chemotherapy and radiation can affect sexual organs and how they work. The American Cancer Society addresses the potential effects on male fertility this way: “Chemo may lower the number of sperm cells, reduce their ability to move, or cause other changes…. Because permanent sterility (infertility) may occur, it’s important to discuss this issue with your doctor BEFORE you start chemo. You might want to think about banking your sperm for future use.”

fr tad pocholczyk hedshotMaking sense out of bioethics

More than 20 years ago, Dr. David Eddy, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, described how his mother, though not suffering from a terminal illness, chose to end her life through VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking). She had been “very independent, very self-sufficient and very content.” When she began to be afflicted by various ailments, including rectal prolapse, she talked with her physician-son about “how she could end her life gracefully.”

fr tad pocholczyk hedshotAn ethical Rubicon was crossed when the first in vitro fertilization (IVF)-conceived baby came into the world in 1978. With human reproduction no longer limited to the embrace of a man and a woman, people felt empowered to take their own sperm and eggs, or those of others, and create their much-desired children bit-by-cellular-bit. As they mixed and matched these cells, they soon were drawn into other twists and turns of the advancing technology, including screening the genes of their test-tube offspring and eugenically weeding out any undesired embryonic children by freezing them in liquid nitrogen or simply discarding them as laboratory refuse.

fr tad pocholczyk hedshotIn 1978, Charles E. Rice, a former professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, made this prediction in his book Beyond Abortion: The Theory and Practice:

“The abortion of the future will be by pill, suppository, or some other do-it-yourself method. At that point the killing of a baby will be wholly elective and private. We have, finally, caught up with the pagan Romans who endowed the father, the pater familias, with the right to kill his child at his discretion. We give that right to the mother. But it is all the same to the victim.”