Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues arising from scientific advances, especially in biology and medicine. The term “bioethics” originated in the academic world in the early 1970’s, and Catholic bioethics was quick to develop because the Church already had a large body of bioethical thought on a range of issues.
The Catholic Church’s concern for healing, and its longstanding involvement in caring for the sick and dying, means it has a rich tradition of reflection and wisdom to bring to the study of bioethics. Catholic bioethics is distinctive for the way in which it has its foundations both in faith and human reason. A Catholic approach is underpinned by a strong belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.
Catholic bioethics seeks to bring the light of the Gospel and the moral tradition of the Catholic Church to issues in bioethics. These issues include cloning, genetic engineering, abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, surrogacy, the allocation of healthcare resources, xenotransplantation and many others.
In 1999 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops established The Nathaniel Centre – the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre – as an agency of the Conference. It is now also part of The Catholic Insitute of Aotearoa New Zealand. The key functions of The Nathaniel Centre are:
The Nathaniel Centre is located in Thorndon, Wellington. It provides assistance to the bishops and to individuals and groups within New Zealand, and on request, to the Catholic dioceses of Oceania.