Pontifical Academy Urges Remedies for Sterility

Hopes for Ethical Options to Artificial Insemination

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Pontifical Academy for Life appealed for a cure to the growing problem of sterility of couples, to avoid their resorting to the unethical practice of artificial insemination.



This is the key message of the statement published on Tuesday by the Vatican institution, which gathered the conclusions of its plenary assembly, held in Rome from Feb. 19-22.

The assembly dealt with theme, "The Dignity of Human Procreation and Reproductive Technologies: Anthropological and Ethical Aspects."

The doctors, scientists, and bioethical and legal experts who participated in the assembly said the rise in couples' sterility, "especially in Western societies," should lead science to "find the real causes and remedies."

Academy members lamented the "self-complacent" attitude that often prompts couples to resort to artificial reproductive technologies as the "only form of treatment."

Worse still is a "new mentality," according to which "recourse to artificial reproductive technologies could even become a 'preferential' way, in relation to the 'natural,' to bring a child into the world," the statement observes.

Feeding this mentality is the belief that these technologies are a more effective way to exercise "'control' over the qualities of the one conceived," the document warns.

"All this contributes to considering the child obtained through artificial reproductive technologies as a 'product,' whose value in reality depends to a large extent on its 'good quality,' subjected to severe controls and selected with care," the statement adds.

"The tragic consequence is the systematic elimination of those human embryos that are considered as lacking sufficient quality, according to inevitably debatable parameters and criteria," the statement says.

By contrast, members of the pontifical academy applaud "the efforts of modern medicine" to "cure forms of conjugal sterility," the statement notes. The assembly discussed "concrete programs … of notable scientific interest" with this objective.

In addition, the academy members suggested adoption as a gesture of love for those married couples afflicted by sterility.

The document recalls that 25 years have gone by since the birth of the first child by in vitro fertilization. An estimated 1 million similar births have occurred since then.

Academy for Life members conclude their statement by calling Catholic legislators to firmly oppose laws that clearly violate the dignity of human life, as in the case of abortion or euthanasia.

Commenting on the document, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the pontifical Academy, told Vatican Radio that Catholic legislators, when they cannot make their view democratically accepted, "must not leave Parliament but try to reduce the harm of an unjust law."

If they cannot prohibit all artificial insemination, for instance, they must at least try to limit it to homologous insemination, within the family, Bishop Sgreccia said. They must also try to eliminate the freezing of embryos, he added.