Why Bioethics Needs the Church (and vice versa)

Back in June I wrote a post to let people know about the newly published book Why the Church Needs Bioethics edited by John Kilner with contributions from many people connected to Trinity and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. At the time my appreciation for what the book represented was based on the people involved and what they had set out to do. I just finished reading the book and they have accomplished their goal well.
They titled the book Why the Church Needs Bioethics, but it could easily have been titled Why Bioethics Needs the Church, because what comes through is how bioethics and the church need each other. I found the insights of biblical scholars and theologians such as Richard Averbeck, Kevin Vanhoozer and D.A. Carson particularly helpful in dealing with the issues of infertility treatment, enhancement, and the end of life that are the focus of the book. But many others from areas as diverse as business ethics, counseling, law, intercultural ministry, medicine and nursing, pastoral care, preaching and Christian education brought insights from all parts of the church to enlighten how we see the bioethical issues that people deal with in real life and how the church can play a role in helping them through difficult times. John Kilner, William Cheshire and John Dunlop brought each section of the book together to help the reader see how it all fit.
The church needs an understanding of bioethics to be able to help people as they face bioethical issues in their lives. Bioethics needs the church to enrich its understanding of how biblical truth impacts bioethical issues and how the body of Christ can prepare people for and help people through the bioethical challenges they face in their lives. Those of us involved in both bioethics and the church are challenged to bring those two together for the good of all.

Death and Dying in the Land of Paradise (part 3)

Previously I shared some thoughts about the inevitability of disease and death.  This raises the question of whether death should be hastened by means of physician assisted suicide or euthanasia.  After all, isn’t PAS an example of playing God?

It is common to hear the phrase “playing God” in a bioethical context, but what does it mean to play God?  Is it only when excessive technology is employed to achieve a desire result?  I have a few general opinions about what it means to play God.

In a very general sense, I think we play God when we make crucial medical decisions (i.e., decisions with moral consequences) without taking God into consideration.

Ironically, humans may play God by deliberately denying the proper use of technology to achieve good health.  In other words, good health may be hindered when individuals determine that no technology should be used.  For example, some sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions when these transfusions can achieve the advancement of health.  Blood transfusion is an example of technology used to save life; life is not being destroyed, manipulated or enhanced with this technology.  The endeavor to save life seems consistent with the biblical notion that good health is a worthy goal.  The denial of technology to save life has no biblical support; indeed, it appears contrary to Scripture.

We may play God when we apply the philosophy of “vitalism” to end-of-life decisions.  Vitalism,[1] in the context of this discussion, is the view that we have an obligation to extend life no matter what it takes.  Some individuals, even confessing Christians, seem to think that human life should be preserved at all costs.  But it is possible to play God by trying to force life-extending technology on an individual who is clearly in the dying process.  To play God is to attempt to extend life indefinitely when death is a necessary part of humanity.

In addition, technology used to extend life indefinitely in order to harvest organs may represent an attempt to play God.  Current technology and higher-death criteria represent an attempt to declare a person dead when death has not actually occurred, in order to remove the organs for transplantation.  On the one hand, it is vital to keep the cardiopulmonary functions of the body alive in order to maintain the health and usability of the organs.  On the other hand, it is crucial that an individual is truly dead before the removal of organs.   Thus, it is a question of whether to remove artificial respiration to allow complete and natural death, but at the same time ensure that the organs are not damaged so that organ transplantation is possible.  Higher-death criteria make it possible to play God in at least two situations: 1) to prematurely pronounce someone dead and remove artificial respiration in order to remove the organs for transplantation or, 2) to prematurely pronounce someone dead, but keep the body alive to maintain the health of the organs for future transplantation.  In both cases, one is playing God because it is not at all clear that higher-brain ‘death’ represents actual death.

We play God when we create or destroy innocent life in order to promote healthcare.  Many scientists view human embryonic stem cells to be the mother-lode of health care; it is claimed they offer the promise of healing, health and an endless supply of the mounting demand for human organs.  However, the success of stem cell technology should not be the decisive issue in the discussion.  If stem cell research requires the destruction of human embryos, and if human embryos are indeed innocent members of the human race with inherent rights, then human embryonic cell research is an immoral enterprise.  It amounts to the utilitarian practice of taking innocent lives for the benefit of others.  It forces embryos to become mere products to be used for unproven therapies.

Finally, we play God when we end life prematurely by doctor assisted suicide or euthanasia.  Death is inevitable, but nothing in Scripture indicates that those who suffer should hasten death.  Obviously, if a person doesn’t believe in God, then he isn’t going to worry about the accusation of playing God in these situations.  Indeed, frequently God is not allowed to be part of the discussion without the accusation of imposing one’s religion on others. On the other hand, a committed theist should take a more cautious approach about end-of-life decisions.  In short, to play God is to end life prematurely and intentionally.[2]

These are some of my thoughts about playing God.  What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?


[1] Not to be confused with the “philosophy of vitalism,” the view that all living entities share in a life principle that cannot be reduced to material entities.

[2] The administration of morphine to relieve pain may have the double-effect of hastening death.  This is not an example of playing God because it should not be the intention of the physician to administer morphine to cause death.

Announcing the 2012 SVME Waltham Student Essay Contest

 

SVME 2012 Student Essay Contest Flyer

 

Founded in 1994, The Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics (SVME) seeks to promote thoughtful and respectful public discussion on ethical issues arising in, and relevant to, the practice of veterinary medicine. In that effort, The SVME has long recognized the importance of student participation and development in the field of veterinary ethics. And so, with the generous support of The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition,  The SVME is pleased to announce The 2012 SVME Waltham Student Essay Contest. The contest is open to any student presently enrolled (part-time or full-time) in a graduate or undergraduate degree program at an accredited institution of higher learning. The author of the winning entry will receive

  • $1,000 cash award; and a 
  • $1,000 travel stipend to attend the 2012 annual meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association for the purpose of present the winning essay at the SVME plenary session.

 

The topic for this year’s contest is

“On the Question of ‘Human Exceptionalism’ and Its Bearing upon Veterinary Medical Ethics”

 

Complete instructions, a brief description of the topic, and essay evaluative criteria are posted on the SVME website (http://www.svme.org/Default.aspx?pageId=528502 ). Send completed essay via email attachment (Microsoft Word or Adobe ‘pdf’ document) to Dr. Erik M. Clary, Chair of SVME Student Essay Committee at [email protected] Deadline for submission is Saturday, April 14, 2012.

 

 

Darwinian Theory and Ethics

 

In another forum, I recently posted an essay that asked readers to contemplate the message being communicated in PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) slogan “Meat is Murder.” The post generated much stimulating discussion. I found particularly interesting the efforts of some respondents to bring evolutionary theory to bear upon the question of meat-eating, partly because I had just finished reading Rod Preece’s book, Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution: The Historical Status of Animals. In that work, Preece throws cold water on the notion that Darwin’s theory of evolution facilitated the rise of a more compassionate animal ethic. As Preece states (p.359-360),

“The much vaunted claim that increased sensibility to animals was stimulated by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution does not stand up to careful scrutiny. The sensibility has existed in perpetuity, and to the extent that it became more pronounced in the Darwinian age, its consequence was anything but Darwinian. In fact, those whose source of inspiration was quite other than Darwinian displayed a far greater sensibility to animals, at least on the issue of animal experimentaton. [In the preceding chapter, Preece identifies Christians as the chief advocates who brought about change for the better in late nineteenth-century attitudes and practices towards animals]”

As Preece notes (p.347), Darwin defended vivisection at a time when others were denouncing it with great force. Even as he experienced some emotional discomfort over his killing and dissecting of animal subjects, Darwin nonetheless defended animal experimentation, including that which was intended purely for the sake of gaining knowledge, and so too did many of his followers.

Now, one may wish to argue that on the matter of animal ethics, Darwin was simply blind to the ramifications of his theory – that somehow, common descent via natural selection provides the basis for a no-kill stance. Others insist, however, that Darwinian theory provides adequate justification for our making use of animals for food, fiber, etc. As one medical researcher once told me not too long ago, the consequence of evolution is “we won!” and so, as “victors” in the struggle for life, subjugation of other species is our natural right.

The appeal to Darwinian theory by advocates of polar opposite views on the issue of meat-eating raises an important question about the connection between evolution and ethics – specifically, is there one? Can we truly find the basis for ethical judgment in the narrative of “survival of the fittest?” Only, it would seem, if we are content to leave ethics at the level of mere description of what happens in nature. But then we wouldn’t truly be talking about ethics as most seem to understand it – a sense of oughtness that regulates, and even trumps the natural impulse. Preece notes two significant vegetarians and animal advocates, Leo Tolstoy and George Bernard Shaw, as examples of animal advocates who perceived the inability of Darwinian theory to deliver the moral sense (p.346). As Tolstoy put it, “Darwinism won’t explain to you the meaning of your life and won’t give you guidance for your actions.”

The problem to which Tolstoy points is often labeled as the “is-ought dilemma.” Uttered almost in passing by David Hume three centuries ago, the is-ought dilemma came to the forefront in discussions of evolutionary ethics through the writings of George Edward Moore, a philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Principia Ethica, Moore spoke of the “naturalistic fallacy” in reference to Herbert Spencer’s attempt to derive ethical principles from an evolutionary narrative. The problem, Moore argued (and Hume before him), is that determinations of value (what is good as opposed to what is bad; i.e. what ought to be pursued) are of an entirely different category than statements about what transpires in nature. To argue that some natural property or process is morally superior entails a categorical shift that requires the importation of values that nature cannot, in and of itself, supply. So, we may make many correct observations about the behavior and biological needs of animals, but those in and of themselves do not yield moral guidance; only when united to the moral presupposition that the animal’s nature ought to be respected, might they come into play.

Ardent Darwinists protest the charge of fallacious reasoning. Among them are E. O. Wilson, who has asserted that there is no dilemma as “ought” is simply an “is” that needs no further justification. Ought, he believed, consists in what our ancestors chose to do and then codify into law (see his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge p.275). More sophisticated is Michael Ruse who has argued that Hume and Moore have it exactly right and that the solution lies in simply giving up the search for an objective basis for ethics. Nature has, Ruse argues, foisted upon the human species a highly effective deception – specifically, an ingrained sense that right and wrong transcend the individual. Morality, he believes, is simply smoke and mirrors that masks the selfish core ‘bequeathed’ by natural selection. (See Ruse’s recent essay  “The Biological Sciences Can Act as a Ground for Ethics,” in Ayala and Arp’s 2009 book,  Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology).

In the end, Wilson and Ruse argue that morality is a purely natural phenomenon – that nature (matter), and nature alone, provides both the basis and content for ethics. I, myself, am quite skeptical of such a proposition, partly because I fail to see how such can treat human freedom and responsibility as anything more than mere illusion. Deep down, we all know that not every natural impulse is to be acted upon. In denying the natural impulse, we bear witness to the fact that we are more than molecules and atoms arranged in space and time for chemistry (matter) cannot break free from the laws of physics (it is, in fact, the predictability of matter that makes science and technological innovation possible). The capacity to contravene the natural impulse derives not from the material but from an immaterial aspect of our nature – what some call “spirit” or “soul.” Apart from this immaterial reality, there is no accounting for the human freedom and moral agency, among other qualities.  If we are purely material beings, then strict determinism is our lot.

There are, in fact, numerous obstacles to naturalistic ethics. One of the more helpful reads along this line is L. Russ Bush’s book, The Advancement: Keeping the Faith in An Evolutionary Age. Whether or not one is sympathetic to the Christian worldview, Bush’s book offers readers a helpful resource as it lays out in clear language the challenges posed in adopting the naturalistic worldview that typically undergirds evolutionary accounts of ethics and morality.

Your thoughts?

The procurement of organs for transplantation: China vs. the WMA

Can a convict sentenced to death give truly free and informed consent to the harvesting of his or her organs after execution?

There is great difficulty obtaining organs for transplant in China. Much of this is blamed on cultural factors, although suspicion of corruption in the medical profession is also a significant reason. Whatever the reasons, between 2003 and 2009 there were only 130 voluntary organ donations in all of China. Yet in 2006, there were 11,000 organ transplants performed.

So where are all of these organs that are not voluntary donations coming from? Answer: executed prisoners. To its credit, China does try to make sure that prisoners give informed consent. According to Bing-Yo Shi MD and Li-Ping Chen PhD, writing in Wednesday’s JAMA, “If a sentenced convict [in China] would like to donate his organs, the convict and his family must submit an official application and sign an informed consent statement with a lawyer present. Before execution, the convict is asked to confirm his organ donation again, and if consent is reneged, organ procurement is explicitly prohibited.”

However, the World Medical Association (WMA) in its Statement on Human Organ Donation and Transplantation explicitly states that “Because prisoners and other individuals in custody are not in a position to give consent freely and can be subject to coercion, their organs must not be used for transplantation except for members of their immediate family.” (Section F par. 4) In a 2005 resolution the WMA addressed China specifically, stating unequivocally that “The WMA demands that China immediately cease the practice of using prisoners as organ donors.”

In a society such as China’s with such strong biases against organ donation, what are we to make of this large number of sentenced convicts apparently consenting to donation? Are they simply the most altruistic segment of the Chinese population? In the absence of another explanation, one must wonder whether the fact of imminent execution itself is somehow a form of coercion, an external constraint on behavior. In the absence of another explanation, one must wonder whether China or the WMA is right:

Can a convict sentenced to death give truly free and informed consent to the harvesting of his or her organs after execution?

 

(Information for this post came from the letters, “Organ Transplantation and Regulation in China,” and its reply, published on pages 1863-4 of the November 2nd issue of JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, which were in response to the article “Regulation of Organ Transplantation in China: Difficult Exploration and Slow Advance,” by Shi and Chen, published on pages 434-5 of the July 27th issue.)

Reflections from the Front: For Whose Good?

Reflections From the Front: For Whose Good?

On October 26, the New York Times published a news story, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/health/policy/26vaccine.html?scp=2&sq=hpv%20vaccine&st=cseabout a recent recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that boys and young men should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, HPV, to protect them from anal and throat cancers resulting from sexual activity. It is much less expensive to vaccinate only the boys who will engage in homosexual sex, but since this is hard to predict, the argument goes, we need to vaccinate them all.

Interestingly, the CDC came out with a similar recommendation for girls in  2006, but fewer than half of the girls between 13 to 17 have received even one dose, and less than a third have received all three required for efficacy.

The cost of administering the vaccine per year would be around $140 million, but the initial costs of catching up on the unvaccinated boys might approach $1 billion. The vaccine would combat several but not all strains of HPV; to provide greatest protection, it would ideally be given prior to any sexual activity. Since by age 15 one of five teens are no longer virgins, the aim would be to vaccinate prior to any sexual activity.

An October 29th editorial, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/the-hpv-vaccine-is-for-their-own-good.html?scp=1&sq=hpv%20vaccine&st=cse, tells us that it is “For Their Own Good”, and strongly encourages that all 11 to 12 year-olds receive the vaccine.

The editorialist cannot help himself. He takes a gratuitous swipe at conservative politicians (identified as Republicans in the first article), and conservatives in general for their reluctance to endorse the vaccine recommendations wholeheartedly. It is always easier to employ ad hominem arguments than it is to seriously address counterarguments to one’s own position. He fails to address:

1)       If this is such a great idea, why is the vaccination rate so low among girls, 5 years after the CDC’s endorsement? Are two-thirds of all Americans conservative, religious Luddites?

2)       Are there alternative ways to decrease the spread of HPV? What are their risks and benefits?

3)       There is no mention of abstention education, which has been proven to reduce sexual activity prior to marriage. http://www.cmda.org/wcm/CMDA/PublicPolicy2/Press_Room1/NewsReleases/2010_News_Releases/Landmark_abstinence_study_.aspx

4)       Contrary to the types of statistics generated by Alfred Kinsey, thoroughly debunked but still occasionally quoted as an authority, a true estimate of homosexual behavior in American males is probably between 1-5%. Is it really reasonable to vaccinate 95-99% of American boys for a disease that is very rare in their population?

Simplistic prescriptions for complex ailments are seldom satisfactory.

TIUBlogNumber4Vaccines.doc

Voting on personhood

The issue of how we define personhood or how we define who has full moral status is one of the most fundamental issues in bioethics. It determines who is included in our considerations of ethical issues. The worldview of Christians who understand the Bible to be the foundation of our understanding of God’s moral truth and who hold to the traditional creeds of the church points to a biological definition of personhood. This biological definition would include every living human being from the time he or she became a separate biologic entity as a zygote following fertilization or its equivalent. This is in contrast to those who would define personhood functionally by the presence of what are considered human attributes.
Next week the people of Louisiana will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would add the following statement, “Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
For those of us with a Christian worldview the proposed amendment raises two questions. 1) Is this definition correct? We would answer that with an unequivocal yes. 2) Is it prudent to add this definition to a state constitution? The answer to that is less clear. If by adding this definition the lives of defenseless unborn human beings are spared then it is clearly a good thing. If this amendment leads to a reaction at a national level which more deeply establishes personal autonomy as the legal priority over the value of the lives of those who are unable to speak for themselves then more unborn lives may be lost than if it were not passed.
We must always be clear in expressing what we understand to be God’s moral truth. When we venture into public policy we need to understand that we are working in a fallen world where that truth may not be understood and a focus on the self may distort it. We need wisdom to decide how to proceed because what is most prudent may not be clear.

Death and Dying in the Land of Paradise (part 2)

Two weeks ago I wrote about the case of Robert and Jeri Orfali.  While they were living in Hawaii, Jeri developed ovarian cancer and died an excruciating death.  After the experience, Robert Orfali became a staunch advocate of physician-assisted suicide.  Needless to say, it’s difficult to imagine the emotional anguish that Robert must have felt and, to an extent, one can empathize with his desire to see his wife experience death with dignity.  In my blog, I shared that I can understand why a person who does not acknowledge God’s sovereignty over life and death would think that PAS should be permitted.

This week (and 2 subsequent weeks) I would like to share a few thoughts about health, disease, “playing God” and death.  As a disclaimer, I should mention that I seek to understand these matters from a Christian worldview. Thus, I am compelled to respond from that perspective.

First, what can we determine from Scripture about the avoidance of disease and the pursuit of health?  In the Old and New Testaments, Scripture clearly teaches that disease is a common but undesirable feature of humanity.  In addition, even a cursory reading of Scripture will reveal that the pursuit of good health is a desirable and worthy objective.  We see, for example, that the Lord commanded Moses to bring those with infectious diseases to the priests for care until declared clean.[1]  Then again, disease was sometimes a punishment for wrongdoing.  For instance, Elijah warned Jehoram that, because of his sin, God would punish him with, “a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’[2]

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus “went throughout Galilee…healing every disease and sickness among the people.”[3] And in Acts, Peter preached that “Jesus of Nazareth… went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”[4]  The healing ministry continued in the early church where Luke reports that “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.  Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.”[5]  Paul also healed Publius’ father who was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery.”  Paul “went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.  When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.”[6]  Earlier in Paul’s ministry he argues that some of the believers in Corinth were sick and some died because of sin and God’s discipline.  “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep… when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”[7]

These passages do not in any way suggest that believers are entitled to health.  As a matter of fact, other passages indicate that healing did not always occur; individuals did become sick and eventually die, after all.  And Christians believe that death is the eventual consequence of sin.   As Nigel Cameron so deftly describes it:

“The sin/death causality runs through the biblical-theological understanding of the nature of reality, and offers one of the foundation-stones of the Judeo-Christian worldview… [it] lies at the heart of Christian understanding of what it means to be human… Sickness, the shadow of death and its foretaste – indeed every sickness – brings with it evidence of our final mortality.”[8]

On the other hand, Cameron continues:

“as we seek to understand the predicament of our mortality, we find that our ground for hope lies in the radically unnatural character of death.  If the cause of death is not natural, if it is both moral and supernatural, if it is sin and the divine judgment upon the sin, then we also believe in a final great reversal in which, after weeping has lasted for a night, joy comes in the morning.”[9]

In any case, even if it is true that disease and death are part of fallen humanity, Scripture concurs that death is an enemy and good health is a noble goal.  Does this give humans the right to play God in these matters?  I will attempt to answer this question in next week’s blog.


[1] Leviticus 13.

[2] 2 Chronicles 21:12-15.  See also Psalm 106: 13-15.

[3] Matthew 4:23.

[4] Acts 10:38.

[5] Acts 5:15-16.

[6] Acts 28: 8-9.

[7] 1 Cor. 11: 30-32.

[8] John Kilner, Robert Orr, and Judith Shelly, The Changing Face of Healthcare, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998)  41.

[9] Ibid,  41.

Technology, Life and Death

Why do we push for technological progress?  Whether it is stem cell research or genetic engineering or nanotechnology or enhancement drugs, people seem to be looking for the same general things:

  • Extending life
  • Finding cures for diseases (or eradicating disease all together)
  • Decrease suffering
  • Maintaining cognitive abilities through old age (or enhancing cognitive abilities)
  • Maintaining good health through old age (or enhancing physical abilities)
  • Overcoming some biological needs or limits

Consider the transhumanists. Transhumanists are often viewed as being on the fringes of science with a religious take on science and technology. However, I find their work interesting to read because I believe they are much more honest about their views of technology and medicine than many of us are. The transhumanist vision, as articulated by Nick Bostrom (See here for a 2003 article by Nick Bostrom on transhumanism)”

This vision, in broad strokes, is to create the opportunity to live much longer and healthier lives, to enhance our memory and other intellectual faculties, to refine our emotional experiences and increase our subjective sense of well-being, and generally to achieve a greater degree of control over our own lives.

In reality, most of us would sympathize with the desires of the transhumanists. Who wouldn’t want to end disease and suffering? Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a healthy body into old age? Who wouldn’t want to undo the effects of the fall? Not everyone would want everything that the transhumanists desire (e.g. cryogenic freezing), but we can certainly sympathize with those desires.

 

We live in a time that enjoys the fruits of the Scientific Revolution. We have seen remarkable advancements in medicine, pharmaceuticals, genetics, and technology over a very short period of time. The structure of DNA was only discovered in 1953. Now there are entire disciplines devoted to genetics or biochemistry. Medicine and technology provides hope for the weak, the infirmed and for those of us who will be weak or infirmed one day. But does it provide ultimate hope?

 

Despite all of the advances in science and medicine, we still do not have a hold on cancer. Many cancers are curable that were once not. We know how to screen for many cancers, but the mechanisms and causes of cancer in many cases remains elusive. We still do not have a cure for degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. We have drugs that can slow the progress, but nothing that will cure it. We also don’t have a cure for the oldest disease, death. Medicine and technology may hold off death for a while, but we have yet to conquer it.

 

And then again, maybe death has been conquered after all. Much of our life is spent concentrating on the physical, but it is at death that we must come face-to-face with the immaterial as well. The Bible provides a link with the physical and immaterial. Consider the promises of the resurrected body. All of the desires listed above are promised in the resurrection. At the resurrection our body will be transformed to be a body like Christ’s (Phil 3:20, 21). The body will not be riddled with disease, and it will not die. The resurrected body will not succumb to aging and it will not be limited by biological needs. It will be strong and healthy (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). The resurrection promises the very things that many people desire in medicine and technology.

 

In many ways, I sympathize and agree with desires of the transhumanists, but I do not agree with where they place their hope. I enjoy many of the benefits of medicine and technology, but I do not believe that they will ultimately save me.

 

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

The Ideas of the 1%

The Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, and elsewhere have made headlines the last several weeks.  I don’t really know if only 1% of the populace controls the majority of wealth in America.  But the “1% Hypothesis” makes you think about the influencers in the field of bioethics.  The number of Christian bioethicists influencing American bioethics probably is greater than 1% but it is still small.  When considering bioethical views in the general populace on subjects like abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research, one might make the case that secular bioethics leadership as exemplified by the ASBH, Penn, Stanford, Case Western and others may be a minority view in the U.S. as a whole.   However, whether a minority view or not, these positions drive the practices of American medicine.  For instance, there is no doubt that euthanasia is gaining momentum in the U.S.  This is reflected in the assisted-suicide practices in places like Oregon, Washington, and Montana and the fact that the idea has become commonplace on medical school campuses.  But what are the actual numbers, do you think?  Is 1% calling the shots?