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.

According to The New York Times, there are 2500 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States versus 1800 abortion clinics.  For those who think that pro-lifers aren’t doing anything to help women with their babies, think again.

EuthanizePhysician-assisted suicide and euthanasia advocates always make their case by pointing to the suffering of the terminally ill. They tug on our heart strings, and promise that if only we’ll legalize PAS/EUTH, it will be limited to the terminally ill who are in their last stages of life and cannot bear the pain of their disease and want to die.

That is how it starts out, but eventually, the scope of those eligible for PAS/EUTH always widens to encompass more and more people – either by changing the law, or just flouting the law.  The first requirement to go is usually the time-frame.  If PAS/EUTH is good enough in the last 6 or 12 months of a person’s life, well, why not allow it a little before?  Eventually, time limits don’t matter.  Next to slip is the requirement that one be terminally ill.  Any illness that causes unbearable pain will do.  But, if PAS/EUTH is the answer to pain, and pain comes in both physical and emotional forms, then why limit PAS/EUTH to just those who are suffering from physical pain?  So the tent gets widened to include those who are depressed and cannot bear life as well.  Indeed, if PAS/EUTH is a compassionate answer to pain, then why is consent even needed?  Doctor’s and parents should be allowed to kill babies born with severe medical problems, whose quality of life is deemed to be too low to be worth living (or let live).  The fact of the matter is that there’s no end in sight when death is seen as a good way to end human suffering, which is why every European country that has legalized PAS/EUTH has followed this slippery slope one way or another.

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Newborn babyKermit Gosnell just got three life sentences for killing newborn babies in his abortion clinic because the law does not permit infanticide.  Most people, even those who support abortion, recognize that infanticide is morally wrong.  But some bioethicists disagree, and they are being increasingly vocal about it, advocating for infanticide in prominent scholarly journals. 

Recently, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva wrote an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?”  This caused a stir in the press, to say the least.  In response to the outcry, the Journal of Medical Ethics has dedicated their May 2013 edition to responses, both pro and con, to the article. 

Philosopher and ethicist Michael Tooley added his voice to the mix in an article titled “Philosophy, critical thinking and ‘after-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’”  Tooley says we ought to question our basic beliefs, including the belief that infanticide is murder, and hence morally wrong.  

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In March of this year, China’s health ministry released abortion data.  Approximately 13 million abortions are performed in China every year.  That’s 25 abortions every minute!  They estimate that since 1971, ~325 million abortions have been performed.  That’s the population of the United States.  Tragic!

ObfuscationNow that cloning is back in the media again, the media is once again demonstrating their ignorance of the science, or blatant attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about what is really being done in the lab.  They either:

  1. Leave out the fact that what is produced is a human embryo (going straight from enucleated egg with the nucleus of an adult cell, directly to stem cells)
  2. Or they admit that an embryo is created, but claim it’s not a human being
  3. Or they deny that the embryo is a human clone (redefining human clone to refer to a cloned human who is allowed to be born. 

They are leaving out important details, and redefining scientific words to fit their purposes.  It’s all rhetoric and propaganda, and obfuscates the science and biology behind it. 

For the last time: somatic cell nuclear transfer does not produce embryonic stem cells.  It creates a human clone, and that human produces stem cells.  To extract the stem cells, the human clone must be killed! 

Wesley J. Smith has some nice posts demonstrating how the mainstream media continues to get it wrong: 

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Researchers at The Oregon Health & Science University have just announced in Cell that they successfully cloned 21 humans, and then killed them to extract their stem cells at the blastocyst stage (although they didn’t describe it as “killing”).  This is the first time stem cells have ever been derived from a human clone.  

Welcome to the brave new world of cloning.

 

HT: Wesley J. Smith

Vermont legislatureOn Monday, the Vermont House approved a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state by a vote of 75-65 (the VT Senate passed it previously by a vote of 17-13).  The governor supported the bill and will surely sign it, making VT the 4th state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide.  

There’s nothing like sending a message to the most vulnerable people among us that we think their lives are of such little value that they can be disposed of at will.  Our moral decline continues….

 

HT: Wesley J. Smith

Adult stem cellsI haven’t been reporting on stem cell research lately, but there has continued to be a flurry of advances in the field.  None of them, however, involve embryonic stem cell research.  All of them involve adult stem cells, cord blood stem cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells (adult cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic state). 

The latest advance was announced earlier this month.  Scientists extracted stem cells from a two year old girl’s bone marrow and created a new windpipe with it in less than a week.  Growing one organ from the cells of another body part is truly astonishing work!  

Here are some other recent medical advances in non-embryonic stem cell research that I have not reported on: 

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Russia is experiencing a population problem.  Putin has hired Boyz II Men ahead of Valentine’s Day to get the Russians in the mood for baby-making!  As Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard quipped, he should have hired a pro-life organization instead.  In Russia, for every 10 babies born 13 more are aborted.  That is a staggeringly high abortion rate (for comparison, in the U.S. “only” 2.5 babies are aborted for every 10 babies born).  More babies are killed than born!

Russia will never fix its population problem until it fixes its culture of death that devalues unborn human life.

MaryElizabethWilliamsMary Elizabeth Williams recently wrote at Salon that

when we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb? … It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better.

If you are cheering on Ms. Williams as an articulate pro-life apologist, you would be mistaken.  She is a card-carrying member in the pro-abortion cause.  What makes her rather unique among her peers is that she admits “life begins at conception,” and yet also fully supports a woman’s right to kill that human being because “all life is not equal.”

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Daniel Williams has written a nice piece on how Roe v. Wade affected the pro-life movement.  While many think that Roe gave rise to a substantive pro-life movement, this is not true to history.  Williams notes the following facts:

  • The pro-life movement witnessed a string of legislative victories to curtail or outlaw abortion in 1971 and 1972.  They defeated abortion bills in all 25 states who considered them in 1971.  In 1972, voters defeated abortion initiatives in MI and ND by large margins.
  • Abortion became legal in CA and CO in 1967.
  • In 1970, four states legalized abortion for virtually any reason up to the 20th or 24th week of pregnancy
  • There were 586,760 abortions in 1972, the year before Roe was decided. In 1973, the number of legal abortions rose 28% to 750,000.  By 1980 the number reached 1.5 million.
  • When Roe was decided, 19 states permitted abortion, and 4 of those 19 allowed abortion-on-demand.
  • White women used to constitute the majority of those obtaining abortion (75% in 1973), but now poor, minority women constitute the majority (55% in 2008).
  • Several courts had recognized the unborn to be persons prior to Roe declaring this to be a wrong reading of the Constitution.

Deaf TwinsTwin brothers were recently euthanized in Belgium.  The two unidentified men – who appear to be in their 40s – were born deaf, and have spent their entire lives together.  When informed that they were both going blind, they decided to end their lives because they couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing one another again.

Belgium euthanizes 1% of the population every year.  What makes this brother-duo unique is that they were not terminally ill, nor were they experiencing any physical suffering.  They simply did not want to live with the quality of life they would be forced to live under, so they found a doctor to kill them before that day arrived.

Let this be a sounding alarm.  Euthanasia is not yet legal in this country, and only Oregon and Washington allow for physician-assisted suicide.  But there continues to be a big push for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, and it is gaining momentum throughout the Western world.  Those who push for its legalization always tell the public that the legal option for suicide will only be reserved for the terminally ill who are experiencing agonizing pain at the end of their lives.  But that’s just the selling point.  Once a society buys into that line, the pro-death community always goes for the upsell.  Their ultimate goal is death-on-demand.

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What would you say if I told you that a politician supported a man’s legal right to physically abuse his wife under any circumstance, but is “a pro-woman hero” because his policies will help undermine the root causes of spousal abuse?  You’d say I was nuts, right?  Well, this same sort of argument is made all the time when it comes to pro-abortion politicians.

Eric C. Miller seems to have drunk this same Kool-Aid.  The title of my post is the title of his article in Religion Dispatches Magazine.  The title is as oxymoronic as “Adolph Hitler, Zionism Hero” or “Chick-fil-A, PETA hero.”  How does one come to the conclusion that the most pro-abortion president this nation has ever seen is actually a pro-life hero?  Birth control.

President Obama’s “Obamacare” will require all health insurance companies to cover contraceptives free of charge.  And according to a recent study by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, access to free birth control can reduce unintended pregnancies by up to 75%.  Miller reasons that since virtually all abortions are due to unintended pregnancies, access to free contraception will lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and thus severely lower the abortion rate.

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