Bioethics


Christian Ethics GeislerChristian Ethics by Norman Geisler was written in 1989.  I’ve known many people who have read this book over the years, but never bothered to do so myself until I saw it on sale for a deep discount!  I found it to be a great introduction to ethical systems and pressing moral issues.

Geisler starts by looking at various ethical systems such as antinomianism, situationism, utilitarianism, generalism, and variations of absolutism (these are the names he gives these views, which are not exactly my preferences).  He concludes that the Bible teaches a deontological view of ethics.  When it comes to the question of whether moral duties ever conflict and how we are to respond, he argues for the “greater good” view in which moral conflicts are real, and we do the greater good when we choose to lesser of the two evils.

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It was just about a year ago that humans were successfully cloned for the first time.  Those researchers used fetal cells.  A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Robert Lanza from Advanced Cell Technology successfully cloned two humans using adult cells (from a 35 year old man and a 75 year old man).

declineEarlier this month the Guttmacher Institute released the latest abortion figures (for 2011), which revealed that the number of abortions in this country have once again began to decline despite the continued growth in population.  In 2011, there were 1.06 million abortions – a 13% decline from 2008.  The 2011 abortion rate also declined 13% from 2008, with 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.  Compare this to the 1981 peak of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women.

There has also been a big shift in the way women procure abortions.  In 2008, 17% of all abortions were performed via chemicals (such as RU-486).  As of 2011, that number increased to 23%.

There are also fewer abortion providers (4% fewer than 2008) and abortion clinics (1% fewer than 2008).

See Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011 for details.

AZ enacted a law in April 2012 banning abortions at 20 weeks and later (measured from last menstrual period) due to evidence that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.  This was ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Appellate Court in San Francisco because Roe protects a women’s right to abortion before a fetus is viable, and a fetus is not viable until ~24 weeks.  The SCOTUS refused to hear the case, and thus the ruling stands.

Judge Kleinfeld, from the 9th Circuit court, had said, “Were the [AZ] statute limited to protecting fetuses from unnecessary infliction of excruciating pain before their death, Arizona might regulate abortions at or after 20 weeks by requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed, much as it requires anesthetization of prisoners prior to killing them when the death penalty is carried out.”

Paying-Lip-ServiceOne of the reasons many conservative Christians tend to vote for Republican politicians is due to the party’s moral conservatism: pro-life, pro-family.  Several people have argued, however, that this is not a worthwhile reason to vote Republican because most Republican politicians only pay lip service to the pro-life position for political purposes, and/or they don’t really do anything to limit or abolish abortion (or can’t really do anything due to Roe).

I’ve always found the psychoanalysis claim to be dubious. It’s very difficult to prove that someone does not truly believe what they say they believe. Pro-life Republicans could make the same claims about pro-choice Democrats: They don’t really believe abortion should be permitted, but pay lip service to the pro-choice position for political purposes.  I think it’s best to avoid the psychoanalysis, and just take people at their word unless we have good reason to doubt their sincerity.

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I’ve heard a few prolife thinkers take the position that it is wrong to use the biological tissue of aborted fetuses for medicinal purposes on the grounds that such a practice would encourage additional abortions.  I’m not sure I agree with this line of reasoning, however.  Consider the practice of using the organs of those killed by homicide.  Should we be opposed to this on the grounds that it will encourage additional homicides?  Surely not.  The motivation for homicide is not to provide a fresh supply of organs for the born, but hatred for the individual who was murdered.  Nobody commits murder so that they can increase the number of organs available for transplantation; therefore, there is no reason to believe that using the organs of homicide victims will increase the number of homicides in the future.  By the same token, the motivation for abortion is not to provide additional biological tissue to help the born, but because people do not want the children they conceived.  While an unborn child should never be killed, if and when an unborn child has been killed, I see no ethical problem in using its tissues to aid the born.  After all, one is not doing evil (abortion) to accomplish some good (helping the sick), but trying to find some good (helping the sick) from an evil (abortion) they cannot prevent.

At least, these were my thoughts prior to reading more deeply into some of the arguments presented by those who oppose the use of aborted fetal tissues.  After having delved a bit more into the arguments, I’ve changed my thinking.  It think it is more reasonable to avoid the medical use of aborted fetal tissues.

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burning carImagine with me the following scenario: You are resting peacefully at your home, when all of a sudden you hear a loud bang.  You rush outside to see what happened, and across the street is a wrecked car with a man trapped inside.  As you approach the car to offer help, it becomes engulfed in flames.  The man is fully conscious, but unable to escape.  You’ve called 911, but it will be 15 minutes before they are able to arrive with a fire truck and the jaws of life.  The man is burning before your eyes with no chance of survival, and you hear his blood curdling cries from within the car: “Shoot me, please!  Shoot me!  Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

You own a gun, and have the means to honor this man’s request.  The choice is yours: Do nothing, and watch this man burn to death in excruciating pain for the next 10 minutes, or get your gun, and shoot the man to hasten his death to avoid the unbearable suffering.  What would you do?

Once you have answered this question, scroll down below for an additional question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euthanasia is the practice of actively and purposely killing an individual because they are experiencing some form of unbearable suffering.  Think, for example, of the person with terminal bone cancer whose body is wracked with pain.  If you were to meet such a person, and they requested that you kill them to end their suffering, would you do it?

If you would kill the man in the car, but not the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios.  Likewise, if you would not kill the man in the car, but would kill the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios.

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