Faith Syposium: the human person and bioethics

The last lecture of the Symposium was given by Fr Dylan James who has recently been awarded his doctorate in Rome for his comparison of Catholic and secular approaches to the definition of the human person in the context of bioethics.

The Catholic approach is not without controversy. Taking Boethius' definition "An individual substance of a rational nature", Fr Dylan looked at the question of the human embryo and particularly the different approaches that have been suggested within (orthodox) Catholic thought to the problem raised by the potential for twinning. Lest you should be worried by this discussion or by the picture above, let me reassure you that our new Doctor proposed a strong case that the embryo is a person from the moment of conception.

Listening to the lecture, I found myself regretting that I had not brought with me my notes on the lecture by Fr Fleming which I reported on in the post Body plan defined at conception. The differentiation that has been found in recent research, even in a single-celled embryo, is fascinating.

As part of his research into secular approaches, Fr Dylan interviewed the Baroness Warnock whose influence has been a major factor in the legal changes that have led to embryo experimentation.

There was much discussion afterwards on the question of "brain death". Fr Dylan proposed the view that the "brain dead" person indeed continued to be a person. Death requires a more definitive disintegration of the unitary whole that is the personal self.

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