Catholic Medical Ethics

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The basic principle informing the Catholic view of advances in medicine is that we may use any aid to health that preserves or restores the natural functions of the body but we may not use any means that are contrary to the nature of the body.[1]

Examples of Licit Therapies

  • medicine
    • pain relief
    • promotion of fertility
    • chemotheraphy
  • surgery
    • pain relief
    • correction of injuries
    • restoration of tissues, limbs, ligaments, etc.
    • cosmetic surgery (so long as the cost is proportional to one's income)
    • removal of cancerous growths and afflicted organs (hysterectomy [removal of ovaries], orchiectomy [removal of testicles], mastectomy [removal of breasts])
  • blood transfusions
  • glasses
  • dentistry
  • hearing aids
  • use of adult stem cells in research and therapy
  • prenatal diagnosis[2]
  • organ donation and organ transplants

Examples of Illicit Actions

The Principle of Double Effect

If a particular therapy is intended to save the life of a person, it is licit, even if as a side-effect the therapy causes the death of a baby in the womb or renders the person sterile afterward.

A Slippery Slope

HHS slippery slope: if the principle is established that the government defines what is and is not religiously acceptable, then there can be no limit to what the government can require the Church to provide for her employees.

Provision of contraceptives for all women is just the camel's nose under the tent; other such intrusions such as infanticide and euthanasia are sure to follow.



  1. CCC #2288; CCC #2292.
  2. CCC 2274: "Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being." Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence" (CDF, Donum vitae I,2).