SUMMARY OF DONUM VITAE

Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation; Replies to certain questions of the day
The purpose of this document is clearly mentioned in its foreword: ´to offer, in the light of the previous teaching of the Magisterium, some specific replies to the main questions being asked in this regard.µ It is arranged into the following: (a) Introduction, which recalls the fundamental principles necessary for a proper evaluation of problems and for working out replies to those questions, (b) Part one, which deals with respect for the human being from the first moment of his or her existence, (c) Part two, which deals with moral questions raised by technical interventions on human procreation, (d) Part three, which offers some orientations on the relationships between moral law and civil law in terms of the respect due to human embryos and fetuses and as regards the question on the techniques of artificial procreation, and lastly, (e) the conclusion. INTRODUCTION 1. Biomedical Research and the teaching of the Church Every person should bear in mind that life is a gift from God the Creator and Father, and must be responsible in taking care of it. The advent of biomedical research offers effective ways to prolong life, notwithstanding the dangers of using unethical means of manipulating the human body. The document states the following criteria of moral judgment as regards the application of these modern scientific methods: respect, defense and promotion of man, his ´primary and fundamental right to life, his dignity as a person who is endowed with a spiritual soul and with moral responsibility and who is called to beatific communion with God. 2. Science And Technology At The Service Of The Human Person The human person is on top of science and technology in that the latter must show an unconditional respect for the fundamental criteria of the moral law.µ In other words, they must be at the service of the human person and not vice versa. 3. Anthropology and procedures in the biomedical field The human person must be considered both body and soul. This basic principle must be included in any decision making as far as biomedical procedures are concerned. What is being done to a single part of the body, the whole person is affected. This is likewise applied to the field of sexuality and procreation 4. Fundamental criteria for a Moral Judment A proper moral judgment takes place when the following are considered: The human being·s right to life starts ´from the moment of conception until death.µ1 Hence, human life must be
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Cf. Intro, 1.

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considered inviolable. At the same time, the transmission of human life is something sacred; its dignity is the same as that of the former. Inasmuch as it involves a free and conscious human act, it is subjected to divine law. 5. Teachings of the Magisterium2 The Church consistently teaches that from the moment of conception, human life is to be considered sacred and must be respected inasmuch it has a divine end. Human procreation requires a responsibility on the part of the spouses in accordance with the divine law. PART I: RESPECT FOR HUMAN EMBRYOS3 This part tackles several relevant moral problems today concerning human embryos, taking into consideration the abovementioned principles. Here are the pertinent points: (a) The embryo must be treated as a person; it must be treated in the same way as any other human being in the field of medical intervention. (b) Prenatal diagnosis may be morally licit if it is to safeguard and heal the embryo. If it includes the purpose of abortion, then it is illicit. (c) Therapeutic procedures on the human embryos and fetuses can only be allowed when there is a moral certainty of not causing harm to the life or integrity of the unborn child and the mother., and that there is free and in formed consent on the part of the parents. Corpses of human embryos and fetuses must be respected just as the remains of other human beings. (d) ´In Vitroµ fertilization is a usurpation of God·s place in human fertilization. Hence, it is absolutely illicit in that it deliberately exposes to death human embryos. (e) Any other techniques of human reproduction derived from ´in vitroµ procedure, like cloning, parthenogenesis, ´twin fissionµ, cryo-preservation, etc., are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within and from marriage. PART II: INTERVENTIONS UPON HUMAN PROCREATION This part answers the moral problems concerning two techniques of artificial human procreation: 1. Heterologous artificial fertilization4 Human procreation must take place in marriage only. Otherwise, it is morally illicit. Moreover, heterologous artificial fertilization is contrary to the unity of marriage, to the dignity of the spouses, to the vocation proper to parents and to the child·s right to be conceived into the world in and from marriage. Similarly, ´surrogate motherhoodµ is definitely immoral for the same reason.
2 3

Cf. Intro, 5. Cf. I, 1-6. 4 Cf. II, A, 1-3.

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2. Homologous Artificial Fertilization5 Procreation is illicit when it is not desired as the fruit of the conjugal act. Otherwise, it·s perfectly licit. It is in conformity with the dignity of the person when human procreation is the fruit of the sexual act between two spouses in love. This also means homologous ´in vitroµ fertilization, regardless of the good intention of the spouses, is morally illicit inasmuch as human procreation is not the result of a conjugal act, in which the spouses are co-creators with God. Homologous artificial insemination can only be morally acceptable if, and only if it facilitates the conjugal act or helps it to reach its natural objectives. If on the other hand, the procedure were to substitute the natural process, then it is illicit. As regards the moral criterion with regard to medical intervention in human procreation, it must be at the service of conjugal union and it must be in relation to its goal which is the good of persons and their bodily and psychological health. Medicines that respect the integrity of the person must also respect the values involved in sexuality. The natural process of procreation must not be replaced by any medical procedure. On the sensitive topic of infertility, the spouses are called to accept the fact that having a child is a gratuitous gift of marriage. They do not have the absolute right to have children. The community has the duty to console those suffering of this malady and must offer solutions like adoption, educational work and the like. Doctors are also encouraged to research for ways to prevent the causes of sterility. PART III: MORAL AND CIVIL LAW Civil legislation must take into consideration the values and moral obligations as regards the abovementioned problems. Everyone must commit themselves, particularly within their professional field and in the exercise of their civil rights, to ensuring the reform of morally unacceptable civil laws and the correction of illicit practices. If ever there has been legislated a civil law that is morally intolerable to genuine Christian living, then everyone is obliged to object to this. CONCLUSION This part is an appeal to all those who are responsible for the formation of consciences and of public opinion, to scientists and medical professionals, to jurists and politician. They are obliged to do their duties that are in accordance to the eternal law of God, who is gave us the gift of human life. - End Bro. Gino Godinez, SDB 3rd Year Student
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Cf. II, B, 4-8.

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