This past weekend I attended the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity’s annual conference. This conference, as always, is challenging and enlightening with lectures by top-notch speakers from all over the globe. Needless to say, it was a jam-packed weekend, which means I did not get a chance to adequately research two more pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter drugs for this week. However, the topic of this year’s conference did address contraception. In two weeks, we will not only look at some of the drug facts related to hormonal contraception, but we will also look at some of the larger cultural issues that the speakers at this conference addressed.
Every year the CBHD conference covers an important and timely bioethics topic. Prior years included Healthcare and the Common Good, Beyond Therapy: Exploring Enhancement and Human Futures, and The Scandal of Bioethics: Reclaiming Christian Influence in Technology, Science, & Medicine, to name a few. This year’s topic was Reclaiming Dignity in a Culture of Commodification. This topic specifically dealt with our culture’s pressure to turn the woman’s body, whether it is her physical appearance or harvesting eggs for research purposes, into an object of financial worth rather than viewing the woman as an embodied and ensouled person with God-given dignity and intrinsic moral worth.
Commodification is a particularly global phenomenon. Several presentations discussed medical tourism and surrogacy, or “wombs for rent.” One way that couples have dealt with infertility is to hire a surrogate to carry a child for them. Sometimes the surrogate also provides genetic material; sometimes she is truly a “womb for rent” while other genetic material is inserted into her. This particular practice is often done overseas, and the women who typically agree to be surrogates do so for financial rather than altruistic reasons. This is a type of commodification because the woman is valued for a particular body part (her uterus) rather than as a whole person. Because of the financial component, these overseas arrangements are often exploiting the impoverished woman.
This just touches on some of the many interesting topics we covered. I also heard lectures on genetic testing and gene patenting, the abortion industry, and a great lecture on the Affordable Care Act, which fellow bioethics blogger, Cody Chambers, touched on here. Overall, this was another great conference that was both challenging and inspiring.
By the way, here are a couple of resources from the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity:
If you are interested in whether your denomination has a statement on particular bioethics issues: See Christianbiowiki.org.
If you would like to hear podcasts on bioethics topics that affect our everyday life: See Everydaybioethics.org.