BY CAROL GLATZ IN VATICAN CITY
WHILE ORGAN donation is a generous act of love, the sale and trafficking of organs is abominable and must be condemned, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
"Tissue and organ transplants represent a great advance of medical science and are certainly a sign of hope for the many people who suffer from serious and sometimes critical medical conditions," he said.
But the scarce number of vital organs available for transplant is. "dramatically real" as seen by the long waiting lists of people whose only hope for survival is "linked to meagre supplies which do not correspond to actual needs," he said ii a private audience with some 500 participants attending a Vatican-sponsored gathering on organ donation.
The congress, called "A Gift for Life: Considerations on Organ Donation" was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Italy's National Transplant Centre.
The Pope thanked the medical community for its work, which has allowed many people to overcome critical conditions and to be given back the joy of life. But the efforts of doctors and researchers in this field also depend on "the generosity and altruism of those who donated their organs," he said. The Pope underlined how important ethical considerations are at a time when the demand for organs far outweighs the available supply.
The human body can never be considered a mere object, he said, "otherwise the logic of the market would have the . upper hand".
"Respect for the dignity of the person and protection of his or her individual identity" must be a priority, he said. That means those who choose to donate nonvital organs should do so only if it will not jeopardise their health or cause disabling mutilation or death, he said. The procedure also always must be "morally valid and proportional" to the good sought for the recipient, he said.
The buying and selling of organs and the adoption of "discriminatory and utilitarian criteria" that prevent equal access to receiving organs are morally illicit and unacceptable, he said. Organ trafficking, which targets innocent people and children, must be "decisively Condemned as abominable" and must prompt the scientific and medical communities to band together "to refuse it as an unacceptable practice-. The same must be said for the creation and destruction of human embryos for therapeutic reasons, he added.