Expert on medical ethics speaks to Cathedral students

NEW ULM – In a presentation to a group of Cathedral High School seniors on Tuesday during Jenny Janssen’s science class, Dr. Stephen Najarian, a surgeon and theologian, explored interrelationships between science and faith and how faith informs personal decisions.

After receiving his medical degree from the University of Minnesota, Najarian completed an eight-year of post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. He practiced surgery for some 25-30 years.

Najarian also earned a master’s degree at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas. He gave up the practice of medicine after his ordination in 2003 as a deacon of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and has been in full-time ecclesial ministry since then. He serves on the staff of the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Minneapolis.

He has also served on the faculty of the St. Paul Seminary.

Najarian specializes in medical ethics issues.

Addressing the students, Najarian guided them in navigating conflicting messages sent by present-day culture and Catholic doctrine.

He outlined fundamental principles documented in writings such as Donum Vitae, Evangelicum Vitae and Dignitas Personae.

Najarian discussed the Church viewpoint on the dignity and inviolability of human life. Life is a right, a gift from God, and its dignity is intrinsic, he said.

He also explained ideas of “double effect” harking back to teachings of Thomas Aquinas, dwelling on issues such as what makes an act good and moral. He guided the students in distinguishing between “formal and material co-operation with evil” and explained differences between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” means of preserving life.

Having explained foundational principles, Najarian logically transitioned into a specific discussion of modern-day issues. He explained the science behind, and moral implications of, stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, genetic engineering and disease therapy, and drug research. After reviewing the scientific differences between adult and embryonic stem cell research he addressed why the latter approach, in the view of the Catholic Church, violates the dignity of humanity, and why IVF is viewed as immoral. He also reviewed acceptable genetic engineering and gene therapy techniques that are beginning to yield positive outcomes in the treatment of disease.

After the presentation, Najarian visited with specific students working on their senior ethics projects.

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