ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE REPORT:
By Fiona Basile
Kairos Catholic Journal
About 120 people gathered at Australian Catholic University on Sunday night
for the opening of the 8th National Colloquium for Catholic Bioethicists, hosted
by the Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists.
The theme for this year’s colloquium–held from 22-25 January–is
‘Agent Neutrality and Moral Cooperation’. Bishop of Parramatta, Most Reverend Dr
Anthony Fisher OP addressed Sunday night's public forum on ‘The Catholic
Hospital: The Ideal and the Pragmatic’. Following Bishop Fisher’s talk, His
Excellency Sir James Gobbo, AC CVO KStJ KCSG QC launched Bishop Fisher’s book,
Catholic Bioethics For A New Millennium.
Catholic health-care professionals including doctors, nurses and
midwives, members of hospital and clinical ethics committees, researchers,
lawyers and politicians were among the attendees at the public forum on Sunday
night, as well as at the colloquium itself.
Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini is Associate Dean and Head of
Bioethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.
He said, “The purpose of the national colloquium is to foster discussion and
debate amongst bioethicists.”
“We began running colloquia in 2005 hosting a meeting of the International
Association of Catholic Bioethicists in that year, at which the international
association was established. The Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists
was approved by the Bishops Conference in 2007.”
The Association was formed under the aegis of the Order of Malta and in
accord with the purposes of the Order to defend the faith and to serve the sick,
and in fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The Australian Association of Catholic Bioethicists aims to promote in-depth
discussion, research, professional development, and publications on specific
issues in bioethics and to foster communication, collaboration and cooperation
among Catholic bioethicists and Catholic bioethics institutes throughout
It also aims to encourage and resource contributions to bioethics and the
development of public policy by Catholic health professionals and other
professionals in Theology, Philosophy, Biological Science and Law and to be a
resource and source of advice for the Australian Catholic Bishops and the
leaders of Catholic health and social welfare.
Professor Tonti-Filippini said, “This year’s topic of ‘Agent Neutrality and
Moral Cooperation’ is very relevant to the trend in medicine and nursing to
require doctors and nurses not to allow their own moral principles and values to
guide their professional practice.
“Health professionals are being asked to be guided on the basis of patient
autonomy and by the patient's values and the problem with that is that it means
the loss of the Hippocratic tradition in which a health profession is a
vocation, and in which health professionals seek to provide treatment and advice
on the basis of evidence, and to serve the health interests of patients.
“It also means that health professionals would not have a right to
conscientiously object. It would mean that Catholic hospitals and aged care
could not function as Catholic hospitals.”
The colloquium addressed this issue in a number of areas: the role and
identity of Catholic institutions, the ethical development of staff, care of the
sick and dying, advanced care directives, the new abortion law and fertility
management in general practice.
The colloquium brought together a broad range of perspectives and
disciplines. The papers were pre-circulated so that presentations could be
short and the maximum time could be spent in discussion.
Attendance at the colloquium is limited to those involved in bioethics and
the related professions. This year saw the involvement for the first time of
people involved in ‘mission direction in Catholic hospitals. The latter are
responsible for the development of staff in the mission and ethics’ of Catholic
For more information about the national colloquium, including the topics and
speakers, see www.bioethicscolloquium.com.au
Photos from Sunday's opening night (1-13) by Sharon Walker - On Location
Photos from the colloquium by Fiona Basile, Kairos Catholic Journal