Using the Internet to Research Bioethics: A Resource
Staff of The Nathaniel Centre
Issue 25, August 2008
In order to understand adequately the issues in bioethics from a Catholic perspective we must combine the insights of history and science with the insights of our Catholic moral tradition. This approach reflects the multidisciplinary nature of bioethics and also assists in discovering the rich complexity of the issues.
If we are to bring a Catholic perspective to the public debate on key bioethical issues in a way that enables meaningful dialogue with others, it is also important to be familiar with the questions and perspectives of other people who think differently from ourselves.
The internet provides a readily accessible source of information on Bioethics and is frequently the first source of information for many people including students. The ease with which information can be added to the internet means that there is a huge range in terms of the quality and reliability of information. Therefore, one of the greatest challenges when using the internet for research is to discern which sites are reliable.
The following sites have been selected by staff of The Nathaniel Centre as being useful for helping interested persons to become better informed from the different perspectives listed above. Therefore the list includes sites that are Catholic as well as other sites whose content may reflect views at variance with Catholic teaching.
DISCLAIMER: The New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference and its agency The Nathaniel Centre are not responsible for the content of Internet sites other than its own site.
The Pontifical Academy for Life is a papal body with responsibility for commenting on bioethical issues from a Catholic perspective. This site has documents on cloning, stem cells, the dignity of the dying person, xenotransplantation, and many other topics.
The Nathaniel Centre – The New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre was established in 1999 as an agency of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference. While the Centre deals with the same reality as secular bioethics centres, it seeks to bring the light of the Gospel and the moral tradition of the Catholic Church to issues in bioethics, in particular as they apply to the New Zealand situation. The site provides information on various bioethical issues and access to many articles from its own journal – The Nathaniel Report.
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre (formerly The Linacre Centre) promotes understanding of Catholic teaching on abortion, assisted conception, advance directives, contraception, euthanasia, genetic engineering and other issues. They operate from the philosophy that much of the Church's teaching on these topics coincides with the tradition of common morality which is the moral basis of just legislation and the fundamental ethical framework for the practice of medicine.
US Catholic Bishops A link to the official website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops - Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. This site provides access to key statements from U.S. Catholic Bishops on various bioethical issues.
See especially "Issues" and "Church Documents".
The National Catholic Bioethics Centre (NCBC) conducts research, consultation, publishing and education to promote human dignity in health care and the life sciences, and derives its message directly from the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Center's staff consults regularly on life science issues and medical issues with the Vatican, the U.S. bishops and public policy-makers, hospitals and international organizations of all faiths.
"Making Sense of Bioethics" under "EDUCATION" provides a useful and varied series of articles.
The Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics is based in a Jesuit Catholic University aspiring to promote faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice for people wanting to apply an ethical approach to the crucial issues facing our world. The site contains excellent articles on the "theory" of ethical decision making, commentaries on ethical issues and links to other sites.
See for useful case scenarios.
The Caroline Chisholm Centre (Melbourne) began as a response to the Catholic Hospitals' demand for greater understanding and advice on ethical issues in health care. The Centre publishes a quarterly Bulletin accessible online - the articles are short, solid, well researched, readable and directed to seeking moral truth in health ethics in the Catholic Christian tradition.
The Queensland Bioethics Centre is a community service sponsored by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia. The site contains useful statements and journal articles on a range of current bioethical issues.
The Southern Cross Bioethics Institute (Adelaide) is an independent, non-sectarian, autonomous institution committed to research into important bioethical issues affecting the whole community. The Institute adheres to universal human values, human rights, and the laws of humanity, including the inviolable and inalienable right to life of every member of the human family, whatever the age, status or ability of that member, from conception to natural death. There are numerous useful articles and opinion pieces available on this site.
Links to Other Bioethics Websites
The Centre for Bioethics and Dignity exists to help individuals and organizations address the pressing bioethical challenges of our day, including managed care, end-of-life treatment, genetic intervention, euthanasia and suicide, and reproductive technologies. It was founded by Christian bioethicists with a view to addressing the lack of explicit Christian engagement in bioethics.
Religion & Ethics – BBC offers an overview of a select number of ethical issues including abortion, euthanasia, animal ethics, capital punishment, contraception, circumcision, same-sex marriage, forced marriage, slavery, sporting ethics, slavery and war.
The Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago was established in 1988 in response to growing awareness of new ethical issues relating to law, medicine and technology; issues which touch the lives of everyone. The Centre's aims are to encourage and co-ordinate teaching and research, to stimulate informed public debate, and to provide a consultation and resource service for health professionals and others in the community.
The Genetic Science Learning Centre is part of the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics (University of Utah). This is an interactive site providing good scientific information on issues related to genetics; basics of DNA & chromosomes, stem cells, pharming, genetic disorders, genetic testing & GM. Register for free as a teacher; the Teacher Guide Index includes various student activities: extracting DNA from wheat germ, matching up chromosome pairs, mutating a DNA sequence and more.
BioethicsBytes is established & maintained by the University of Leicester. The site hosts a collection of resources to assist in the teaching of bioethics, many drawing on literature, documentary and film excerpts. The authors invite readers to contribute additional materials that they have found useful.
The Center for Genetics and Society is a non-profit organization working to encourage responsible uses of the new human genetic and reproductive technologies. The Center is committed to the equitable provision of health technologies; women's health and reproductive rights; the protection of children; the rights of the disabled. It supports benign and beneficent medical applications and opposes applications that objectify and commodify human life. This site contains good information on a range of bioethical issues as well as providing updates on the latest news.
BioNews is a source of news, information and comment in human genetics and assisted reproduction providing up-to-date summaries of scientific, medical and legal developments, a range of views on ethical and social issues as well as listings and reports on conferences and other events. Sign up to a free weekly email round up of top stories in assisted reproduction and human genetics.
Debatabase is a searchable website set up to assist debaters. It provides arguments and counter-arguments for a wide range of topics and issues. The categories "Moral & Religious", "Law & Crime", and "Science & Technology" contain a number of topics of bioethical interest. It also contains good information on other topical issues that will appeal to students and teachers in other fields.
Ethics Updates is designed primarily to be used by ethics teachers and students to provide updates on current ethical issues. The site contains valuable information in the form of PowerPoint presentations that look at the various ethical theories, as well as a section that applies ethical reasoning to a variety of ethical dilemmas. There are also links to selected internet resources on various topics.
Access Excellence is a component of the virtual National Health Museum (UK), a national educational program developed to aid high school biology and life science teachers. This site provides an Issues and Bioethics section that includes a syllabus for a high school bioethics course and discussions of many ethical issues.
Euthanasia.com provides information for research on euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, living wills, and mercy killing. The providers of this site are "committed to the fundamental belief that the direct killing of another person is wrong. We have deep sympathy for those people who are suffering."
The Vanderbilt University Centre for Ethics exists to promote increased attention to the ethical issues and problems that people face in their everyday and professional lives. The site provides links to case studies hosted by a variety of sites.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) (formerly ERMA) controls the introduction of new plants & animals, including genetically modified organisms (GMO's) and new and existing hazardous substances to New Zealand. The purpose of the Authority is: "To protect the environment and the health and safety of people and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms."
A YAHOO site on Environment and Nature with an alphabetical subject index of web pages on topics that include Ecology, Environmental Ethics, Global Change, Overpopulation, Sustainable Development and many more. The site also provides links to hundreds of other sites.