By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Vatican officials are denouncing the plans of a controversial Italian doctor to artificially inseminate a woman with the sperm of her comatose husband who slipped into unconsciousness just as the couple was planning to conceive.
“I decided to act because … there’s a woman who wants to become a mother to overcome the immense sadness” said Dr. Severino Antinori to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
The man, 35, who has not been identified, is suffering from brain cancer. According to his 32 year-old wife, he slipped into a coma at the same time the couple was planning to start their family.
Dr. Antinori is known in Italy as “the grandmother’s obstetrician” for his controversial practice of helping post-menopausal women in their 60’s to bear children through in vitro fertilization. He also promotes other questionable practices such as human cloning.
The sperm was extracted 10 days ago and Dr. Antinori plans to artificially inseminate the wife in about a month. The in vitro fertilization of the woman will be the first in Italy using the sperm of a man in a coma, Corriere said.
Vatican officials are denouncing the procedure. “The consent of both parents is necessary for an act of procreation. In this case the husband is being treated as a mere receptacle of cells,” said Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy of Life.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, Msgr. Sgreccia also told the Italian press that the procedure will represent a “serious crime” because it violates Italy’s Law 40, requiring the consent of both parents for artificial insemination.
The current president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, said “a child should always be an act of love, not a laboratory experiment.”
Church teaching condemns the practice of artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization because they separate procreation from the sexual act that unites the parents.
Even though Italian law states that the consent of both parents is required to carry out an artificial insemination, Dr. Antinori claims that an Italian judge overseeing the case has allowed the man’s father to give permission in his stead, and that the permission has been granted. He has threatened a defamation suit against several individuals who have accused him of breaking the law.
The Antinori case represents the second bioethics controversy in recent weeks in which an Italian judge has reinterpreted the law to allow procedures previously understood as legally prohibited. In a similar case earlier this month, the father of a disabled woman, Eluana Englaro, was given permission by Italy’s highest court to starve his severely disabled daughter to death despite laws prohibiting euthanasia.
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