1. NAME AND IDENTITY OF THE COMMISSION
Ethics, in all its many facets, is growing increasingly in importance in the modern world. In every area of society there is an insistent demand to consider ethical issues in the fields of welfare and health care, as well as the economy, politics, ecology, research and education. Governments are demanding it, as are the international organisations, vocational training schools, universities and religious denominations, and especially the Catholic Church.
This is all the result of the huge advances made in technical, scientific, social and political terms, as well as the new possibilities for development which are opening up in the modern world. All this progress is very important in so far as it benefits human life, but it can also create major moral dilemmas for individuals and for society as a whole, because it may sometimes offend against human dignity, dehumanise life and relations between people, encourage inequalities and fail to respect the ecosystem.
1.2 Bioethics in the Order
Bioethics, which is the interdisciplinary study of the ethics of life, is becoming increasingly important today.
The Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God is particularly sensitive and committed to Bioethics, to appraise and appropriately address the ethical dilemmas that arise in its Apostolic Centres, both in the field of welfare and health care, as well as in management and social and biomedical research. For several years already the Order has been setting up Bioethics Committees, some of which have already built up considerable useful experience. In 2000, the Order published its document “The Charter of Hospitality” which laid down the principles and basic guidelines for the work of our Institution in the field of Bioethics.
1.3 The General Commission on Bioethics (GCB)
At the 66th General Chapter held in October 2006 in Rome, the Hospitaller Order considered it necessary to continue to give even greater encouragement to considering Bioethics in every Centre and Facility, mindful of its importance and the need to educate Brothers and Co-workers in this field, in order to be able to respond properly to any ethical issues that arise, and which are increasing in number, and growing in complexity, all the time. The Order therefore approved the establishment of a General Commission on Bioethics (GCB) to create greater ethical sensitivity among our Brothers and Co-workers, particularly by providing them with formation, to encourage the institution of Bioethics Commissions throughout the Order and to become actively committed to providing advice and coordination services on all issues relating to Bioethics at the general level.
More specifically, the terms of reference issued by the Chapter, setting out the mission and the basic purpose of the GCB are :
- To institute, at the General Curia, a liaison body, consultancy organ or an observatory, to reflect on bioethics issues at the level of the whole Order. This organ could advise the Provinces to gather information on everything that is being experienced on ethical and/or bioethical issues within the Order, and share the information with the largest possible number of people, particularly with those who cannot avail themselves of this type of Committees and have to address similar problems.”(Declarations of the LXVI General Chapter, Bioethics, 2)
- The last General Chapter held in Fatima in 2012 further strengthened this decision by deciding to:
- Consolidate the General and Provincial Commissions on Ethics and Bioethics, provide adequate formation and take appropriate decisions on these matters throughout the Order (Declarations of the LXVII General Chapter, Lines of action and priorities of the LXVII General Chapter, Mission, III)
The Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the principles and the fundamental thrusts of the Order’s Charter of Hospitality, the actual real-life situation in which individuals live and interdisciplinary ethical dialogue (theological-moral, healthcare and behavioural sciences, legislation and law, clients/guests etc) must make up the fundamental framework for the development and the work of the GCB in particular, and Bioethics in the life of the Order, in general.
2. THE MAIN PURPOSE
The basic mission of the GCB is to advise and provide direction on issues relating to Bioethics, to promote and coordinate the Bioethics Committees to encourage formation and ethical sensitisation in our care Centres and propose guidelines for action, particularly in areas where major conflicts may emerge within the Order.
3. SPECIFIC PURPOSES
– To encourage the establishment of Bioethics Committees in the Order’s Provinces and Apostolic Centres.
– To encourage the ethical and bioethical formation of the Brothers and Co-workers throughout the Order.
– To encourage the study of ethical issues in the field of health care, management and research as the development and expansion of the Charter of Hospitality, to be used as guidelines for the whole Order.
– To understand the operation of the Bioethics Committees that already exist and their reflections, protocols and basic lines of action, in order to properly acquainted with them and to foster the exchange of information between the Provinces and Centres of the Order.
– To provide Bioethics information and consultancy services to the Order’s General Government.
– To advise and guide the Provinces and Centres on Bioethics matters, especially in conflicting ethical situations and dilemmas.
– To encourage access by the Provinces to the GCB through the Commission President and the General Councillors and Delegates responsible for the Regions of the Order. To this end, the members of the GCB are given the responsibility of monitoring one or more Regions of the Order working side-by-side with the President, who acts as supervisor of this activity.
– To create opportunities to relate with Foundations, Institutes, Units and Centres of Biomedical Research within the Order, and particularly with its Ethics Committees, in order to become familiar with, coordinate and appraise ethical criteria for action.
– To promote and to take part in congresses and meetings on Bioethics organised in the Order offering the vision and appraising all the issues on the agenda.
– To encourage the exchange of information within the Order on bioethics matters.
– To maintain and step up relations with the European Union through the Brussels Office and appraise the opportunities of gaining access to other international organisations.
The working method begins with debate and interdisciplinary dialogue, trying as far as possible to establish unanimous agreement on the matters under discussion, always consistently with the principles and fundamental values of the Order. If a unanimous opinion is not reached, a majority opinion should be expressed and the minority position must be minuted.
The GCB has a Permanent Secretariat at the General Curia which:
– Is managed by the President and coordinated by the Commission Secretary,
– Receives and archives all the documentation sent in from the Provinces,
– Supports the President to help draft the agenda for meetings and to send out notices convening the meetings with at least 70 days’ prior notice,
– Supports the Secretary to help draft the minutes of the meetings and the replies to any questions put to the Commission,
– Facilitates contacts between the members, and in particular supports them in their role as benchmarks for the Order’s Regions.
If it is deemed appropriate and necessary, extraordinary meetings may also be convened, whenever it is necessary to consult on issues that emerge. The President of the Commission, acting on behalf of the whole Standing Commission, may convene a number of members of the GCB, generally choosing those living nearest to Rome.
In the aforementioned cases, and whenever necessary to deal with specific aspects and issues of relevance to the work of the Commission, the Permanent Secretariat must contact the members of the Commission by email to hear the opinions and judgments of each one of them.
Acting through the Secretariat, the Commission provides information regarding Congresses and meetings on Bioethics that are organised in the Order and outside it. One or more members of the GCB must attend them.
It is planned to institute a data bank on ethics and bioethics in Order to build up a complete picture of the situation of the Order in this regard and to be able to share reflections, protocols, guidelines for action, decisions on concrete cases etc. The task of the Commission is to continue creating a Glossary in order to simplify the approach to Bioethics issues.
The members of the GCB, and its President, are appointed by the Prior General.
The members must have experience in Bioethics and be thoroughly familiar with the Hospitaller Order.
The members of the GCB remain in office for the Sexennium. The members appointed for the period 2012-2018 are:
- Bro. José Maria BERMEJO (President)
- Bro. Benigno RAMOS
- Sr Margarita BOFARULL
- Dr. Maria Teresa IANNONE
- Dr Salvino LEONE
- Dr. Silvia OGER
- Dr. Corinna PORTERI
- Bro. Patrick NJUNGFIYINI
- Bro. Pablo LOPEZ
- Bro. André SENE (Secretary)
When dealing with specific issues, experts may also be invited to attend the meetings of the GCB.
6. LOGISTICAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR MEETINGS
The Secretary General shall coordinate the organisational arrangements for the work of the General Commission on Bioethics to ensure that meeting rooms available and premises are available, to supply the interpreting services and to deal with every other logistical aspect linked to the work of the Commission.
7. CONVENING MEETINGS, AND THEIR REGULARITY
The Commission President shall convene the meetings and draw up the agenda for them.
The GCB shall meet twice a year, as a rule, normally at the General Curia in Rome.
Meetings shall be convened with at least 70 days’ notice.
The Secretary is responsible for drafting the minutes of every meeting and ensuring that they reach all the members of the Commission in advance of the following meeting. The Permanent Secretariat is responsible for archiving the minutes.
9. CONGRESS ORGANISATION
The GCB shall organise a Congress in the last quarter of 2017.
10. DRAFTING DOCUMENTS
The GCB shall draft documents to deal with whatever needs arise. Its prime commitment is to address ethical issues in the field of psychiatry and to thoroughly debate the values and the ethos of the Order. Particular attention must be paid to the ethics of the organisation.
The Order’s website has a section dedicated to the GCB containing a full account of all the work of the Commission.
These regulations are to be adopted by the GCB after their approval by the General Council of the Order. More information.