Sanctity of Life question


I’m a television producer currently doing some research for a series about religion and moral philosophy for Channel 4, one of the UK’s main public service broadcasters.

One of the areas we’re interested in looking at is to what extent modern medicine conflicts with the sanctity of life for those of the Catholic faith. Even though the ambition of medicine is to cure and prolong life, it can also result in having to make very difficult choices that we have never had to make before in human history.

Taking childbearing as an example, historically a woman would fall pregnant and allow nature to take its course. However, medical science is now able to offer tests and scans that can predict a negative health outcome for the mother and / or unborn child.

I have heard a number of anecdotal stories of pregnant women being told that their health would be gravely threatened by continuing with the pregnancy. These women faced death in order to give life.

I’m interested in whether this is an issue for Catholic women / families in particular, because of the Catholic teaching about the sanctity of life.

I’m terribly sorry to have to ask this as I understand how painful it must be, but do any of you have personal experience of this? Have you been advised by doctors to terminate a pregnancy because it may endanger your life / your wife’s life?

I’d be very interested in talking to anyone who may be facing this issue at the moment, or who may be willing to share a past experience of it with me.

Equally, please do let me know if there are any other areas of medicine in which this conflict between medicine and the sanctity of life arises.

Getting in touch will in no way commit you to taking part in the series and anything you tell me will be treated with the utmost confidence.

For your information, I have considerable experience of working with people affected by very sensitive subjects such as family separation, domestic abuse and bereavement, and I take the duty of care for contributors extremely seriously.

If you are able to help, please contact me on

With thanks and best wishes,


I have never faced the situation you describe, but I believe you are missing an aspect of the respect for life that is very important in the Catholic faith. Not only is life to be respected from the moment of conception, but even before that. Meaning, no use of artificial birth control, including the Pill, IUDs, tubal ligation or hysterectomy for the purpose of sterilizing, condoms, withdrawal, etc. This teaching is not followed by many Catholics, and many of those who do follow it struggle with it every day, however it is important and it does make a huge difference.

As for the conflict between modern medicine and the sanctity of life, it is true that there is quite a conflict. Embryonic stem cell research, artificial birth control, abortion, euthanasia...all of these conflict with the Catholic faith, and they do so in all cases. The only possible exception is the situation you describe, but I believe there are very specific guidelines and Catholics who face that situation should consult their priest and work with him very closely in determining their plans for the health of mother and baby.

For myself and my husband, we discussed this particular situation before we were married. I expressed my desire to give my life for that of my child if it came to that. I believe he struggles with my decision, but he respects that it is my decision and I believe he will honor it if I am incapable of voicing that decision at the time.

While he struggles with that situation, we have both whole-heartedly agreed that no matter the health of the child or our financial situation, or even if I should fall victim to rape and conceive, that abortion would not be an option.


These resources may be your best bet for expert advice vs personal experience and thought…
(maybe specifically


I have yet to understand how I have gotten pregnant 11 times, and have never fallen during the process :rolleyes: Perhaps it’s the ocean between us that makes your choice of words circumspect, but I know exactly what I was doing each and every time, and would never say “I fell pregnant” as if it was an accident.

As for the life and death scenario. I was a risk to my mother’s life. I’m very glad she chose life and so are my children.

Check out this website for a sampling of stories of those truly faced with a pregnancy that has a terminal diagnosis:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit