- Jul 12, 2020
It became official this week: We can now edit the genetic material of embryos. It’s being hailed as a major breakthrough to fight disease, but as the movie “Gattaca” so brilliantly demonstrated two decades ago, there are numerous, profound ethical questions when such a practice is normalized. If we wait for our grandchildren to resolve them, it will be too late.
A decision on Monday by the parents of Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old infant battling a rare genetic disorder, to drop their legal battle to purse experimental treatment and to “let our son go and be with the angels” leaves no one rejoicing. However, the question will have to be raised: Which is closer to a Catholic ethical standpoint — the American approach or the British?
Nearly 118,000 people in the United States are waiting for a transplant, and more than 20 people die every day waiting for a suitable organ. The odds are long for most who are awaiting organs. Each year, the number of people on the waiting list grows, while only about 2 percent of donated organs can be used. Pope Francis has called the act of organ donation “a testimony of love for our neighbor.”
Speaking to patients, their family members, and medical personnel from the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu children’s hospital in Rome, Pope Francis warned of “the risk of forgetting the most important medicine only a family can give — caresses.”
As proposed new medical procedures enter into what looks like science fiction, are ethical concerns being properly taken into account? The latest controversy is over a surgeon who wants to transplant an entire human head.
“People have to realize that Americans of all stripes, regardless of their religious affiliation, that we are losing our religious freedom … at amazing speed,” said Louis Brown, director of the Christ Medicus Foundation at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.