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Benedict Ashley & Kevin O’Rourke. Dominican Contributions to Bioethics in the USA. Benedict Ashley Theology of the body & bioethics Protestant-Humanist-Marxist-Catholic-OP PhDs Notre Dame & Aquinas Institute. Kevin O’Rourke Clinical medicine

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benedict ashley kevin o rourke

Benedict Ashley & Kevin O’Rourke

Dominican Contributions to

Bioethics in the USA

Benedict Ashley

Theology of the body & bioethics


PhDs Notre Dame & Aquinas Institute

Kevin O’Rourke

Clinical medicine

Catholic Health Association Director Medical-Moral affairs

PhD Angelicum, Dean Aquinas Institute

beginnings of bioethics
Beginnings of Bioethics
  • Overlap medicine / biological research / law / pubic policy / new technology

in light of RC moral teaching

  • O’Rourke - Centre for Health Care Ethics, St Louis Medical School (1979)
  • Ashley –with Albert Moraczewski OP, National Bioethics Centre (1972, 2004)
“when the Centre started, the issues were rather routine and did not require a great deal of scientific knowledge. Thus, we spent much of our time on questions of informed consent, removing life support, observing confidentiality, and proper spiritual care of dying people. Soon after, such problems as brain death and organ donation, amniocentesis, in vitro fertilisation, surrogate motherhood, and physician-assisted suicide came on the scene. Recently, of course, the issues of cloning and the various possibilities associated with the Human Genome Project and genetic intervention have become prominent. Finally the harvesting of stem cells obtained from aborted foetuses and fusing them with the cells of a cow is now a reality.”
ethical manuals
Ethical Manuals
  • Need for a Catholic, Christian/ecumenical guidebook for medical practitioners
  • Continual revision for new ethical dilemmas
  • Conceptual framework for a clinical setting
  • Theological content: scripture & magisterium
  • Personalist Philosophy
interpreting aquinas
Interpreting Aquinas
  • Natural law theory & human goals: biological, psychological, social, spiritual
  • St Thomas’ Summa Theologiae IaIIae, 91,1
  • Embryo as organ of central control: life begins at conception
  • Co-authored articles e.g. Cloning, Aquinas & the Embryonic Person
  • “a Thomist must say that if at the moment there exists living cellular material sufficiently prepared for hominisation, God, as the author of nature, will complete the natural process by the creation of a human soul”

(Ashley 1976)

beginnings of life
Beginnings of Life
  • Ashley – JPII Institute for the Study of Marriage and Family, Washington DC
  • Theologies of the Body completed 1985
  • Humanae Vitae 1968 a watershed
  • Infertility services commericialised – ethical problems of storing fertilised eggs
  • 1973 abortion legalised in USA
women pro life
Women & Pro-Life
  • “In our opinion our campaign of Pro-Life education will not make headway in our individualistic culture… until it focuses its attention not just on the rights of the unborn child, but on the rights of women. The unborn child is unseen and asleep; the woman is visible and consciously suffering”

(Ashley 1992)

the end of life
The End of Life
  • O’Rourke – resolving treatment for patients imminently dying / permanently unconscious.
  • Argued AHN could be witheld
  • AHN – artificial hydration & nutrition
  • PVS – permanent vegetative state
  • “good ethical distinctions are as thin as silk and as strong as steel”
  • Vatican Declaration on Euthanasia 1980
human rights social rights
Human Rights - Social Rights
  • UNDHR tradition
  • social context of these rights in USA extreme individualism & privacy
  • Justice in distribution of health care
  • Person centred, preventative health care
  • “I am convinced that the only way to solve health care problems in our society is to insist continually that we must have universal health care coverage.”

(O’Rourke 1996)