Pope John Paul II said today that a wide range of medical procedures such as artificial insemination, genetic engineering, use of psychic drugs and organ transplants can violate the individual's "right to physical and spiritual life" and his "psychic and functional integrity."
In an address to 2,700 Italian physcians, the pope warned that technological development produces "temptations to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion of nature, threatening the survival and integrity of the human being."
He said that scientists "must consider, within the limits of biology and medicine, the implicit danger to the rights of man from the discoveries in the fields of artificial insemination, birth an fertility controls, hibernation, 'delayed death,' genetics engineering, psychic drugs, organ transplants, etc."
Theologians and medical experts said the pope's speech broke no new ground in Roman Catholic ethics or doctrin and appeared to be aimed at raising cautions about the procedures as possible problem areas rather then condemning all of them.
Organ transplants, for example, are carried out routinely in Catholic hospitals and pose moral problems only when they violate the rights of donor or recipient, one theologian said.
In his address, John Paul said: "Often, in the context of helping an ill person, one may injure his personal right to psychological and physical integrity by using violence in the diagnostic investigation through complex and traumatic methods in the surgical treatment . . . as in the case of organ transplants and in the applied medical research." .
He urged doctors to be candid in outlining dangers of treatment and procedures to their patients and said that "the doctor has only that power and those rights that the patient himself entrusts to him."