Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions: Allowed and Not Allowed

The Instruction Dignitas Personae on certain bioethical questions was released by the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith last 8 September 2008, Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The full document is here.  The body of the document consists of 37 articles, each article consisting of a paragraph or two.  So I’ll enumerate the important points:

Part II: Fertility Treatments

With regard to the treatment of infertility, new medical techniques must respect three fundamental goods: a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death; b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse; c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require “that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.”


  1. Hormonal treatments for infertility, surgery for endometriosis, unblocking of fallopian tubes or their surgical repair only remove obstacles to natural fertilization
  2. Adoption
  3. Research on prevention of sterility

Not Allowed:

  1. Heterologous and homologous artificial insemination that substitute for the conjugal act.
  2. In vitro fertilization because too many embryos are destroyed
  3. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection in which a single sperm is injected directly into an eqq because it separates procreation from the conjugal act.
  4. Cyropreservation of embryos because they presuppose in vitro fertilization that separates procreation from the conjugal act.
  5. Use of frozen embryos for research or treatment of diseases because they are not mere biological material nor cadavers.
  6. Surrogate motherhood or prenatal adoption for frozen embryos.
  7. Cryopreservation of oocytes for the purpose of artificial insemination
  8. Multiple embro transfer in a single womb which leads to systematic destruction of fetuses so that only one baby is born
  9. Preimplantation diagnosis–made already illicit because of its connection to artificial fertilization–is not allowed because it is a form of eugenics that prevents the birth of children with abnormalities; this mentality leads to infanticide and euthanasia, and all other forms of discrimination against the sick and the disabled and those of different race.
  10. Contragestatives which aborts the embryo that was implanted on the womb; these medicines are taken two weeks after nonoccurrence of menstruation–sign of pregnancy.
  11. Deliberate and direct killing of human beings from conception to birth: interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion.

Part III: Manipulation of Embryo or Human Genetic Patrimony


  1. Adult stem cell research.  The methods of obtaining them must not cause serious harm to their subject from whom the stem cells are taken.  The following sources are allowed: a) an adult organism; b) the blood of the umbilical cord at the time of birth; c) fetuses who have died of natural causes.
  2. Somatic cell gene therapy that  seeks to eliminate or reduce genetic defects on the level of somatic cells, that is, cells other than the reproductive cells, but which make up the tissue and organs of the body. It involves procedures aimed at certain individual cells with effects that are limited to a single person.  The informed consent of the patient or his legislated representative is required.
  3. Use of a vaccine by parents which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, if there is a danger to the health of children; but it must be kept in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.

Not Allowed:

  1. Embryonic stem cell research.
  2. Germ line cell therapy that modifies the genes; the modifications are transmitted to the children.
  3. Genetic engineering for strengthening the gene pool.  This leads to discrimination of other persons.    This is based on the ideology that man can replace the Creator.
  4. Human cloning in which a copy of a person is made.  This  gives rise to a new human being without a connection to the act of reciprocal self-giving between the spouses and, more radically, without any link to sexuality.  This is a form of biological slavery.
  5. Therapeutic cloning for treatment of diseases.  It is gravely immoral to sacrifice a human life for therapeutic ends.
  6. Hybrid cloning which mixes human and animal genes.
  7. Experimentation on human embryos.
  8. Mutilation or autopsies of dead embryos; these embryos must be respected as remains of other human beings.
  9. Use of biological material from illicit sources, even if the sources are independent from the researchers.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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