Biased debate

Wieslawa Lewandowska talks to Rev. Prof. Wojciech Bołoz, a bioethicist from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, about the possibility of bioethical compromise.

In September 2009 several extremely different draft projects of the bioethical bill with its main controversial issue of in vitro fertilisation were sent to the Parliament. The ruling party Citizens’ Platform itself has prepared two different projects: the old one that has been revised for several months and is more measured, prepared by Jaroslaw Gowin, and the decisively liberal one, prepared by Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska. There are also two projects that forbid using the in vitro technique, submitted by the MP of the Law and Justice Boleslaw Piecha and the draft of the ‘Contra in vitro’ Legislative Initiative Committee. Now we are looking forward to the debate on this issue.

Wieslawa Lewandowska: – We have five draft projects of the bioethical bill in the Parliament and you grumble that we still lack matter-of-fact discussion on this subject?

Rev. Prof. Wojciech Bołoz: – I think that all these drafts are strongly entangled in the present political debate realising party and ideological aims. And because the media are strongly politicised the discussion about this important subject is superficial, one-sided and insincere to some extent.

– Insincere?!

– Yes, the parties mainly watch their interests and the media do not allow opinions that would lead to find deeper reasons – medical, ethical, social. The media are biased, explicitly promote the supporters of the in vitro method and discriminate its opponents. Why? Perhaps because the procedures are an excellent way to gain large sums of money and make good business? It may be so that the NaProTechnology, which has been quite successful and which can compete with in vitro fertilisation, is openly disregarded and ridiculed? One can even have the impression that the whole discussion on this subject is in some way controlled and subordinated to some ideology or business…

– Or perhaps the subject is too difficult?

– I do not think so. We need only reliable information and discussion that the media do not begin for their own reasons. Let us recollect the situation that happened several years ago when we had an extremely fervent quarrel about abortion in Poland. At the very beginning the social awareness about the harmfulness of abortion was low and after some time it changed radically, influenced by the discussions in the media, which was confirmed by sociological survey. The present debate concerning the in vitro procedure deals mainly with its advantages, fulfilling the right of the spouses to parenthood. Sometimes the media mention the problem connected with the destruction of embryos, which is called refined abortion. These are undoubtedly important aspects of the problem but they constitute only one part, a fraction of the issue. At the present stage of the development of medicine we know more and more about the negative effects of this technology. It has been proved that the babies born by using in vitro fertilisation more often have congenital diseases than the babies conceived naturally. The disorder connected with the women’s hormonal stimulation evoke artificial ovulation and the developmental disorder of children show that it is a risky method. We should not forget that the non-ethical selection of embryos because of their features is used in the in vitro method. The media devote too little attention to this dark side of the in vitro method, the probable reason being that they do not want to lose the business lobby on which they depend today. Therefore, it is some overuse to say that in vitro fertilisation cannot be accepted only because of religion.

– How can we then evaluate the opponents of the in vitro method referring to the doctrine of the Church?

– The doctrine of the Church has a religious, moral and social meaning. Many a time the Church has shown that it knows a safer way for man; it has shown and defended it. John Paul II used to say that nothing defended man better than the Gospel. But since we are living in the pluralistic society we should refer to the argument of dignity that ensures the universal language understood by all participants of this national discussion, and perhaps it will be easier to reach the desired aim. Referring only to the doctrine of the Church we are always exposed to the argument: I am not a Christian and this teaching does not refer to me.

– What can then be the foundation of ‘bioethical compromise’?

– Discussing the in vitro method we should refer to all arguments: medical, social, psychological, legal, religious and ethical. As far as the law and ethics are concerned the principle of dignity and human rights that are connected with it should be domineering. The principle concerning the implementation of these rights to a given person assumes that you cannot deprive anyone of these rights because of some feature, e.g. sex, religion, race…The phase of personal growth belongs to these features. One cannot deprive a child of its right to life only because it is in the early phase of its growth or is still in its mother’s womb.

– Human rights – also mean the right of each man to have children regardless who he/she is – a gay, lesbian, single, not living in a marriage …

– The idea of human rights can sometimes be wrongly interpreted. Nobody can demand the right that he/she cannot consume. A ten-year old boy cannot demand the right to get married and a blind cannot demand the right to drive. Similarly, speaking about the rights of gays and lesbians to parenthood is a misunderstanding. They stress themselves that they are not interested in heterosexual relationships and such relationships are the best place to bear and bring up children. An adoption of a child by a homosexual couple endangers the child to harm because it does not guarantee the child the proper conditions of its growth. I do not know why the defenders of human rights do not see that. I agree that human rights can be wrongly interpreted but despite that I think that they are the best sphere for discussing difficult bioethical themes. After all, all things can be misrepresent and overuse, including the Gospel. Human rights as the principle to regulate relationships between society and individuals have been acknowledged and accepted in the whole world. Their requirements have an objective character, independent from arbitrary stands; therefore, one can prove and justify them. That’s why they constitute an irreplaceable tool to defend individuals against the interests of the groups that have been motivated by ideological, economic or political causes.

"Niedziela" 37/2009

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