Another Rubicon has been crossed

Fr Piotr Kieniewicz

The decision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is another step of the British on the bioethical inclined plane. When in the late 1970s Great Britain gave licence to in vitro fertilization it was reserved that the procedure would be only used in treating infertile couples, and under no conditions could experiments on human embryos be made. Within the next 30 years the reservation had its boundaries lessened. Experiments concerning embryos, stem cell research and cloning were permitted. The consent to create cytoplasmic hybrids has become part of this sequence of decisions in a dramatic and tragic way. The most horrifying thing is that the world accepted the decision as slightly controversial but logical and ultimately right. Generally speaking, nobody should be surprised by that reaction. Human dignity (due to man from his conception) has stopped being a decisive criterion in the world of advance biotechnology. Naturally, people speak about dignity, but it is only given to those who fulfilled certain criteria: they reached a definite level of development, they were born, they are able to live by themselves...Dignity, like humanity itself, has become a discretionary criterion, and consequently of little meaning.
On the other hand, effectiveness has become the decisive criterion for contemporary researchers. What is possible and effective is at the same time worthy of praise and promotion. However, since dignity has become a discretionary criterion and involves many staged, the right to use the achievements of science is given only to those who are on the top of the human pyramid. Those who were born, who are strong and healthy become more important than the sick, the weak and the small, especially the unborn children. The contemporary Prometheuses could use the latter for practically all experiments: they can create them, cut up alive or cross with animals. This is done with the full sanction of the law and with the applause of the public opinion. Additionally, the fact that real discoveries are mixed with desires and researchers’ projects adds piquancy to the matter in question. The ideas that are only on paper are announced as breakthrough. But they are usually theoretical models that have not much in common with the real state of knowledge and scientific possibilities. These media-popular ideas, skilfully presented by modern informational techniques, make people believe that a remedy for their diseases has finally been discovered. One may wonder at the strange endurance in crossing next boundaries, next Rubicons. But one can and should be anxious about that. However, researchers who are hungry for success must realise that their choices are often of irreversible character and their dramatic results will sooner or later bring about tragic effects. The first effect can already be seen: appeased conscience.

"Niedziela" 38/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: