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Quebec doctor probes possible autism, in-vitro fertilization link

Back in my seminary days, our moral theology professor always repeated one single phrase that explained why it is that the Church seems to be so reticent to embrace these new technologies. "Mother Nature always bats last."

With this catch phrase he was teaching us that there are often unintended consequences to new reproductive technologies that we did not expect... consequences that would have to be born by the child conceived through these means. If this study proves that there is a connection between IVF and autism, it will be just another piece of evidence that the Church is indeed wise in its cautious approach to granting its imprimatur to new innovations, especially when it will be the innocent who will have to bear the costs. 

Quebec doctor probes possible autism, in-vitro fertilization link


  1. Hi Tim,

    I remember Mickey as a very intelligent and compassionate priest (I presume you are referring to his bioethics classes while you were in the seminary).

    If he meant what you suggest (i.e. that we should not interfere in human biology because of unintended consequences), then was his prohibition restricted only to reproductive technologies, or was it extended to all medical treatments?

    I think you can see where this is going. Unintended consequences are a risk with all medical treatments and procedures. The answer to understanding and mitigating unintended medical consequences is not "always do nothing" but rather "test, record and analyze thoroughly".

    There is no inherent reason to abandon reproductive technologies without also abadoning other medical technologies.

    To illustrate my point: if our response to anti-infection drugs and protocols was "always do nothing" then human suffering would be greatly amplified. Are you suggesting that it is the will of your god for humantiy to die from simple bacterial infections - especially when an antibiotic or humble soap and water might cure us, or prevent infection, as the case may be?

    I doubt this is what you or Mickey is suggesting, however, if you are to be consistent with your principles, then I am afraid that this is the kind of contractdiction you must embrace - unless of course - you want to say that god is only concerned with "below the belt" medical and social issues and his prohibitions apply only to icky things involving "sex".


  2. Martin: 'Ding ding ding'... it was Mickey alright!

    The caution applies to all NEW medical procedures, not just to reproductive technologies. He extended it to cover the environmental movement, genetic manipulation of people and food, etc.

    Using your example of antibiotics... there are protocols in place to ensure that there are no unintended consequences of the medication before it hits the market for the exact same reason that the church espouses... because the government regulators understand that 'nature always bats last'.

    Note too that the Church has accepted these same technologies when it comes to animals. It simply is stating that we do not yet conclusively know if there will be unintended consequences down the road for the children conceived by IVF or similar technologies. It is little more than an affirmation of our unique status as humans.


  3. Hi Tim,

    Well, all medical technologies were NEW once upon a time. You are suggesting more than caution toward new technologies in your original post - you are suggesting abandonment at the outset. This is a principle I cannot support, regardless of the high regard I may hold for dear old Mickey.

    If you ever wonder why people of goodwill regard your church as reactionary and retarding human progress, look no further than this post.


  4. Martin: NO! You are taking what I have said to an extreme. ALL new technologies (especially ones that impact on human health) need to be studied, examined and tested as far as possible before using it. EVEN THEN, there is still a chance that time will reveal problems/consequences that were unforeseen when it was introduced. When we are dealing with reproductive technologies, the need for caution is all the greater since it will be an innocent 3rd party (the child) that must carry the consequences in their lives. (Remember the Thalidomide kids? Need I say more?)

    That's all I am saying. How can you object to that?


  5. P.S. Were you effected by the severe storms that hit southern Ontario last week? I was WAY BACK in the woods and heard about it when the outfitter came to pick me up to leave. I remember that you came from somewhere outside of TO but I cannot remember exactly where. Was it you or Tim who lived in the area where the tornadoes hit?

  6. Hi Tim,

    There is no daylight between us if you are merely urging caution. But caution iin this context is not a virtue that demonstrates anything about your church or it's interpretation of god's wisdom.

    The tornado was in Goderich and did not directly impact Tim or I.



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