Today we begin a new series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore to help Catholics understand ethical issues in order to explain and speak up for the Catholic way.

In the romantic comedy, Forget Paris (1995), Mickey is in a relationship with Ellen, who is contemplating quitting her rocky marriage to marry Mickey. 

Late one night, she storms into Mickey’s apartment with her luggage, goes straight to the window and asks: “Do you sleep with the window open?”

“Yeah,” replied Mickey.

“I don’t like it. You will have to stop that.”


“Do you squeeze the toothpaste at the top or the bottom?”


“Don’t do that, I hate it. If you ever use my car, make sure the mirror is back where I put it.”

“OK, I can do that.”

“All right. Do you want to talk about religion, politics, whether you want to have kid?”

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Is it all right for a married man to have an affair, if his wife does not mind? In this continuing series on values, we examine why extramarital sex is wrong in the eyes of the Church.

He was a 68-year-old married security guard with a 17-year-old mistress in Batam. He visited her fortnightly and gave her $300 a month to have sex with him exclusively.

Mr Chua’s story appeared in The Straits Times on March 22, 2004. He was quoted as saying: “My wife, 63, and daughter, 38, know about her as well as the previous girls I've had. They don't mind at all. My wife says as long as I don't bring back any disease or get cheated – by buying a house in Batam for my girlfriend – she is fine with it. My daughter, whose son is six, says that since Daddy is already so old, it's okay to let him have some fun. And that is really all there is to it. Visiting Batam is just an entertaining and relaxing pastime for an old man like me.”

It is a fairly common view that adultery is a betrayal of one’s spouse and therefore immoral. But what about someone like Mr Chua, who says his wife does not mind?  Does that become a case of live and let live, or everyone living happily ever after?

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In this continuing series on Values by Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at premarital sex and explain the underlying attitudes behind those who engage in it.

It is becoming increasingly common for unmarried couples - youth and adults - to engage in premarital sex. The commonly cited reasons by those who see no harm in having premarital sex include:

"This is our way of expressing our love. "

"We are going to get married anyway, so what's the big deal?"

"I have to have sex with my partner to know if we are sexually compatible. "

Those who maintain that premarital sex is wrong because sex is an act of union reserved for those who have professed their commitment to each other through wedding vows, can be labelled "old-fashioned" and "traditional".

Here, we examine the differences in these perspectives. What are people really saying when they ask: "What's the big deal?"

Separating body from soul
Those who do not see premarital sex as wrong often view the body as a separate entity from the soul. There are therefore no significant implications (apart from the biological aspects) to use one's body or another's body. Following this reasoning, if the other's body is not "compatible", "useful", or "pleasurable", it can be reasonable not to commit oneself to that person in marriage.

There are also times when a person may feel coerced to have sex with a partner to prove their love and commitment to each other, or out of fear of losing the partner. Here, the body is viewed as an object, a tool: giving one's body in sex as a way to hold on to a relationship. But in doing so, the gift of sex means no more than a bouquet of flowers, or an item of jewellery.

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In this continuing series on Values by Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at the issue of promoting the use of condoms among sexually active young people.

IN SINGAPORE, the rates of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise. Among those at risk are young people who engage in casual sex, In fact, the rate of increase is especially rapid among the youth and cause for worry.

The most commonly proposed solution is to encourage sexually active youth to practise "safe sex" by using condoms. Safe-sex advocates cite the use of condoms as a means of preventing STI transmission; others say that condoms will not solve the problem.

The real solution lies in inculcating proper values that promote abstinence.

According to Dr Stephen Genuis in an article in the British Medical Journal, promoting mechanical means like condoms as the way to tackle STIs "disregards the complex nature of human sexuality and fails to tackle the underlying social and emotional needs of young people, who are often trapped in high risk sexual behaviour as a consequence of difficult life circumstances. Innumerable adolescents saturated with condom-focused sex education fail to have their fundamental human needs met and end up contracting sexually transmitted infections. For some, risky sex is one component of self-destructive behaviour that includes substance misuse and delinquency."

The great divide between the two sides of the condom debate revolves mainly around two issues: the perception of the human person and the practicality of the approach.

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In this continuing series on Values, we look at the issue of contraception versus natural family planning (NFP), and their implications on couples and society.

IN JUST the last 50 years, contraceptives have changed the world's perception of birth control. There has been much debate over the use of contraception versus natural family planning (NFP). While the intention of both may appear the same - to avoid having a baby - the repercussions for couples who choose either method are different.

Advocates of contraception often claim that the birth control pill is the best thing that ever happened for women because it freed women to have sex without fear of pregnancy. Women can also determine when they want to have children.

Many also point out that using contraceptives for birth control is no different from using the many other artificial means that improve our daily lives.

We have home appliances for household chores, and pacemakers to help malfunctioning hearts. So contraception is just another artificial aid with benefits. Just because it is artificial does not mean it is wrong to use it.

NFP advocates argue against contraception not because it is artificial but because it negatively impacts the human person. While a pacemaker helps an ailing body function, contraception does the opposite; by using contraception, a couple chooses to reject offspring by impeding a normal human function.

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In this continuing series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we examine if in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is truly life-giving and ifit is the only solution for an infertile couple.

ANY married couples trying desperately to start a family will say something like this: "We love children. We want to have a baby but we are having problems conceiving. We have tried for three years now. We will do whatever it takes to have a baby. Adopting will be a last resort."

Indeed, the desire to have a child is one of the most natural human desires. When couples have difficulty having babies, it is common to seek medical help to conceive.

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is often regarded as a good option since it helps couples conceive. Not only does it deliver the happiness couples long for, but the goals of IVF also appear to be aligned with the Church's pro-life stance. In Singapore, it also aligns with the government's message of having more babies.

So how can IVF be anything but "God-sent"?

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Today's article in this continuing series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore looks at the emotionally charged debate over abortion.

AUSTRALIAN journalist Melinda Tankard-Reist, who draws upon the experiences of more than 200 women to write about the lasting emotional shock and trauma that follows an abortion, shares this excerpt from a woman named Elizabeth:

"The aftermath was a numbness I hadn't anticipated. I was numb, hollow, dead and so heavy with sorrow. The feeling didn't go with time as my delighted mother assured me it would. I grew morose, bitter, very sad, so heavy with sadness that I can't describe it. I became different ... cheap. I'd sleep with almost anyone. I drank heavily. I didn't care what happened to me and I tried several times to commit suicide.

For 10 years this went on. I cried every day ... and I hated myself and everyone else. I used to dream about the child I'd lost. .. I love it, cherish it, yearned for its birth, missed it when it was taken from me and to this day, 26 years later, feel the tragic heaviness of time. My only consolation is that one day when I die, our souls may co-unite."

Psychologists now know the depression and guilt Elizabeth describes is not unique. Similar cases of post-abortion trauma are commonly found in women who were, for one - reason or another, pressured into having an abortion, or who had experienced uncertainty or ambivalence about their choice to abort. Why is this important?

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In this continuing series on Values by Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at the moral dilemma of physician-assisted suicide and its implications on true choice and compassion.

When Michael Freeland was diagnosed with lung cancer and knew the end was near, he did not want to live. The American was a resident of Oregon state, which allows physician-assisted suicide (PAS) if a terminally-ill patient has less than six months to live. This is a process in which a doctor helps the terminally ill patient to commit suicide by giving him a deadly drug to consume. The year was 2000, and Mr Freeland opted for PAS.

Then, by chance, he came across Physicians for Compassionate Care, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the care and easing the symptoms of dying patients without resorting to suicide. It helped Mr Freeland deal with his depression, and helped him to reconcile with his estranged daughter. He eventually died naturally and comfortably two years later .

His story, and many others like it, are often cited in opposition to PAS. Yet, strong support remains for PAS as a means to end suffering on the grounds of compassion and individual freedom of choice.

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This is the second of two articles on homosexuality, we focus today on the core ethical question which ought to govern the debate on homosexuality: the dignity of the human person and his or her body.  This ongoing series on Values is by the Catholic Medical Guild and  Caritas Singapore.

Everyone has an opinion on homosexuality. On one side, homosexuality is considered unnatural and un-reproductive, and that makes it wrong. On another, it is a natural expression of love, with genuine intention between consenting adults, which brings no harm to anyone, and that makes it right.

The present state of the discussion seems to have exhausted all arguments and the final verdict seems to be one that is waiting for science to settle definitively if homosexuals are really “born that way”.

The current stalemate is a result of seeking answers to the wrong questions about homosexuality.

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This is the first of two articles on the debate over homosexuality, in the ongoing series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore. Today, we examine social dogmas underlying the current perceptions.

There has been a noticeable shift in public opinion on the much-discussed issue of homosexuality. Where once homosexuality was considered a perversion and simply wrong, there is today considerably more sympathy for homosexuals, a perception that they are victims of discrimination, and there is an ongoing campaign to ensure full human rights for homosexuals, including the right to marriage.

This current social perspective on homosexuality is put forward by several new social dogmas which seek to challenge our understanding of ethics, human nature and behaviour. Two of these are:

-         the right to freedom of choice; and
-         the rejection of the concept of a fixed human design.

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In this continuing series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we examine the difference between organ donation and organ trading.

On June 27, 2008, an Indonesian Sulaiman Damanik pleaded guilty in a Singapore Court for trying to sell his kidney to retail magnate Tang Wee Sung for $23,700. The broker of the deal, Wang Chin Sing, 43, was to collect $300,000 from Tang on successful transaction.

Tang was fined $17,000 and sentenced to a day’s jail. Sulaiman was jailed for three weeks. Wang received the heftiest sentence, 14 months’ jail.

Should Tang have been allowed to buy the kidney? His medical condition was fairly desperate and $23,700 was for Sulaiman, the equivalent of 16 years in salary. Would it not have been a win-win situation, a fair exchange?

Organ donation or trade? Should we allow people to die for a principle? This is how the issue of organ trade is likely to crawl into people’s conscience. What is heavier in the ethical scale, organ trade or human lives?

The Church has stubbornly maintained that “the human person” is at the centre of all ethical decisions. Does this not then imply that the morality of organ trade depends on how many human persons may benefit from it?

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In this last article in the series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at gambling and games of chance where money is involved and examine the moral issues behind indulging in them

Gambling and gambling addiction are on the rise in Singapore.

In the first year of the opening of Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, three million visitors, of which one million were tourists, have crowded their premises.

The two casinos posted more than S$6.1 billion in revenues in 2010 and are expected to rake in more than S$7.6 billion in 2011. This projection would make Singapore the world’s number two gaming destination, ahead of the Las Vegas strip in the US and just behind Macau.

The National Addictions Management Service showed that 17 per cent of patients in 2009 were gambling addicts compared to 5 per cent two years earlier. Counselling centres in Singapore are seeing more cases of gambling addiction, Channel News Asia reported on April 6, 2010.

The average profile of a gambling addict is usually male, Chinese, between the ages of 30 and 40 and earns about $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

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In this final article in the series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at the fundamentals in ethical debates.

A TROLLEY car is hurtling down a track. In its path are five people who will definitely be killed unless you, a bystander, flip a switch which will divert it onto another track, where it will kill one person. Would you flip the switch? If you answer "yes", you are not alone. Judith Thompson, a modern philosopher, devised the dilemma of the runaway trolley car to study how people make moral decisions and concluded that most people would flip the switch. Letting five people die seems worse than allowing one person to die. When it comes to moral decisions, results seem to be the only factor in the equation.

But are end results enough to justify any means to attain them? Should absolute moral principles not be adhered to, so no individual is expendable and everyone can receive equal rights and treatment?

After all, while it may seem intuitive to choose to let one person die instead of five, this approach is not an innate one. Rather, it is invented and nurtured.

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