VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has warned doctors and ethicists on several hot-button social issues, attacking abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia as “playing with life” and “a sin against God.”

In a strongly worded address that marked a departure for a pope who tends to focus more on social justice issues, Francis denounced what he called the “false sense of compassion” that was used to promote abortion and those who regarded euthanasia as “an act of dignity.”

“We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment,” the pope told members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at the Vatican Saturday (Nov. 15).

Francis also condemned in vitro fertilization, which he said promoted children as “a right rather than a gift to welcome,” and embryonic stem cell research, which “used human beings as guinea pigs to presumably save others.”

“This is playing with life,” he said. “Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way.”

Francis has spoken out several times against the assisted suicide movement, which he considers to be a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as a drain on society.

On Saturday, the pope said it was unlawful to take a life and warned of the dangers posed to the elderly by “hidden euthanasia” in our “culture of waste.”

The Vatican’s top bioethicist recently condemned as “reprehensible” the doctor-assisted death of 29-year-old American Brittany Maynard, who said she wanted to die with dignity because she was suffering from terminal brain cancer.

“This woman did this thinking she would die with dignity, but this is a mistake,” said Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Maynard, who moved to Portland, Ore., to take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide law, took a lethal prescription provided by a doctor and died on Nov. 1 after leaving family and friends a final farewell message.

The pope did not mention the Maynard case but urged doctors to think carefully about their work and take courageous decisions in their care of the elderly, ill and disabled while protecting the sanctity of human life.

“Your work wants to witness by word and by example that human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable,” the pontiff said. “And as such, it must be loved, defended and cared for.”

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