|A moment from the course at Baptist University.|
February 26, 2010. Fr Joseph Tham, LC, is a physician
and bioethicist who teaches at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College
in Rome. This past February 1-17, he returned to his
native city of Hong Kong to give an intensive bioethics
course and two additional talks, followed by a visit to
A survey of bioethics challenges
The trip began with
an intensive course in bioethics at Holy Spirit Seminary College,
the diocesan seminary, from February 1 to 6. The course,
given in his native Cantonese Chinese, was entitled “Current Challenges
in Bioethics” and gathered a diverse group, including priests from
China, seminarians from Hong Kong, a religious sister, lay people
who are studying in the theology program, and other lay
people who work in pastoral ministries serving married couples, families,
and pro-life programs.
The course covered the challenges of the
past (secularization of bioethics, contraception), present (moral relativism, utilitarianism, scientism),
and future (new technologies such as nanotechnology and neuroethics which
can manipulate or even change our very nature).
|The promotional poster for the "Current Challenges in Bioethics" course.|
who speak Chinese, the entire 24 hour program of classes
can be downloaded at this link. The diocesan newspaper,
Kung Kao Po, also reported on the story here.
On cloning and stem cells
During his stay in the former
British colony, the Centre of Applied Ethics at Hong Kong
Baptist University invited Fr Tham to give a talk on
“Cloning and Stem Cells. A bioethical reflection.” In his talk,
he focused on how the recent technological advances of cloning,
stem cells, and hybrids have “brought us great promises but
genuine concerns as well.” He began his talk by presenting
the technical date of the new innovations, and then subjected
them to a reasoned bioethical critique.
Among the promises that lure
scientists in this direction, he cited the possibility of uncovering
new knowledge of diseases, the discovery of new cures, and
the potential to regenerate tissues and organs to replace damaged
ones. At the same time, he noted that “these technologies
can raise serious ethical questions regarding the sacrifice of human
embryos, trespassing the human-animal boundary, refashioning humankind, and false hopes
“Medicine is at the threshold of a new revolution,”
he said, commenting that discernment is crucial to making sure
|The students of the intensive course at Holy Spirit Seminary College.|
that this revolution does not turn against man himself.
video of the conference, which was given in English, can
be watched on the university’s web site at this link.
The legal side of bioethics
A group of Catholic lawyers and
two judges from the Thomas More Society then invited Fr
Tham to speak on “Advanced Directives from a Catholic Perspective.”
Since Hong Kong is currently developing a law on the
living will, it was an opportune moment to explain the
Catholic position on this matter.
In his talk, Fr Tham
explained that “Advanced Directives” allow patients to determine in advance
what kinds of treatments to refuse when they become incompetent,
as in the cases of coma, terminal illnesses, or a
persistent vegetative state.
He observed, “Even though the Church has
not pronounced on this issue, there are many reservations of
this practice, which could lead to practices of euthanasia.”
course of his trip, Fr Tham met with experts in
Confucian and Taoist ethics, nanomedical researchers, and Catholic intellectuals from
various places, including the Catholic Studies Center of the Chinese
University and Hong Kong University. He is currently involved in
groups such as the Hong Kong Diocesan Bioethics Centre and
the Diocesan Committee of Pastoral Healthcare as a consultant and
as a member.
To view a collection of Fr Tham’s books,
articles, power point presentations in PDF format, visit this link.