FIAMC BIOMEDICAL ETHICS CENTRE
Federation Internationale des Associations Medical Catholique
The FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre [FBMEC] was established in Bombay in September 1981 to study and debate the ethical status of various actions - experimental, diagnostic or therapeutic - in the bio-medical field within the ethic of culture, religion and the modern secular state.
The practice of medicine is as old as civilisation and so is corruption. During the time of the Greeks, a call to do what was good and reject all that was bad was heeded by the 5th century physician, Hippocrates. His work and dedication, with that of his disciples, resulted in the Hippocratic Oath which was adopted by physicians from that time onwards but it was amended subsequently by the Christian tradition prevailing at the time. Other cultures and religious beliefs such as those of Judaism, the Indian vedic and Chinese traditions, Islam and the later humanist influences have all left
their print on the subject of medical ethics.
In the past three centuries, the Anglo-Saxon influence on medical ethics has been considerable. There was the contribution of John Gregory (1724 - 1773) and later Thomas Percival followed by the various national associations, culminating in the Codes of Practice of the many international medical associations.
It is not surprising that with such a philosophical background, the medical profession has constantly engaged itself in arguments and disputations over a variety of issues related to life and death. Science has advanced very rapidly in the past 50 years. Indeed, it has been said that there has been relatively more progress in the past half century than in all the preceding centuries. This rapid growth of science, in medicine as in technology, at an exponential rate has created its own problems, as said by a philosopher recently: Trouble with mankind today is that wisdom has not kept pace with science; If we compare Einstein with Archimedes, who have we today to compare with Plato. (We do not even have a Plato!)
The urge to know more and more - about the sciences and arts, nature, the environment, space and the world beyond, has emboldened human mortals to rush into areas where angels fear to tread. These developments have understandably raised doubts of a moral and ethical character. Paradoxes abound and the thin line between right and wrong can at times be scarcely distinguished. There are plenty of grey areas that call for ethical questioning: in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, human cloning, sperm banks; experiments on living fetuses', prisoners, the disabled and terminally ill, on the ageing and dying, raise very many questions which call for debate.
It was for this reason that the FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre [FBMEC] was established in Bombay in September 1981. Its role being to debate the legitimacy of experimentation and inquiry within the ethic of culture, religion and the modern secular state.
It was at the XIV World Congress of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations [FIAMC] held in Bombay in January 1978 that it was resolved to establish Bio-Ethics Centers for the association at convenient locations where the various traditions of the world would be represented. This duty fell on the shoulders of Dr. C. J. Vas who had just been elected Secretary General of the organization. After many unsuccessful attempts at starting the first such Centre in Europe, North America, and Australasia, it was decided in 1981 that it be initiated in India. Bombay was chosen for this activity with the Secretary General as the first Managing Trustee. At that time, it was the 6th Centre for medical ethics in the world and the first in Asia, Australasia and Africa.
A small group of interested individuals banded together and commenced work. A nationally prominent physician remarked: What is ethics? He was not being facetious – but just very honest. Trustees of different faiths were appointed and these with their successors have guided the FBMEC over the years. Dr. C.J. Vas was its Founder and Managing Trustee who played a pioneering role in the FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre. Cardinal Simon Pimenta was the Founder Patron who put in a lot of efforts right from the inception of the Centre. His work was continued by His Eminence, Ivan Cardinal Dias for many years. Today, His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, is the Patron, and has taken an active role in guiding the Centre.
All the members of the FBMEC hold the utmost respect for life as it is God given. They believe that life has to be promoted, protected and preserved. Moreover, they uphold the command to care for one’s neighbor.