Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for September, 2013


Euthanasia: Is the Reality Worse than Fiction?

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

By guest commentator Michelle Frazer:

In his recent commentary, writer John Stonestreet has described a new development in Europe as “worse than fiction.” Some patients suffering from certain unbearable disorders have asked for euthanasia, coupled with organ donation to save the lives of others.

Now don’t be carried away with the redemptive value of euthanasia until considering the following facts. At last May’s 21st European Conference on Thoracic Surgery, a paper by a group of Belgian doctors described “Lung Transplantation with Grafts Recovered from Euthanasia Donors.” The abstract describes something unheard-of here in the United States: six patients who received new lungs from euthanized donors between January of 2007 and December of 2012.

According to the European Institute of Bioethics, euthanasia is a common practice in Belgium, with over 5000 cases since 2002, and a steadily increasing number each year. What could be the implications of promoting organ donation in such a context? Peter Saunders, writing for LifeSite News, sees an ugly future:

I wonder how long it will be before elderly people who have ‘already had a good life’ start being eyed up by those with organ failure who are not yet ready to die and being accused covertly, or overtly, of selfishness for being unwilling to hand their fresh healthy organs over.

Given that one third of euthanasia cases in Belgium are already involuntary, I wonder if any patients have yet had their organs harvested without their consent because someone had ‘greater need’ of them?

Organ donation could add even more complexity to the already-difficult subject of terminal illness and ethical decision-making. The debate certainly highlights a marked contrast between Christian and humanist worldviews. Christians believe that every life has dignity and equal worth, while humanists place relative value on life due to its perceived quality or potential for longevity.

Furthermore, giving one’s life for another is a very Christian thing to do, modeling Christ’s sacrificial love. On this basis, organ donation after euthanasia might seem justified in this self-sacrificial way, but only if one freely decides to give up his life for another. But currently, organ donation is seemingly just an added benefit of euthanasia, not its goal. If organ donation becomes a standard purpose of euthanasia, then will it be a free act of self-sacrifice or a result of utilitarian pressure?

Christians believe that God is ultimately sovereign over life, not doctors or even patients. And the Christian and humanist worldviews differ in how one finds worth and happiness. The desire for euthanasia suggests that maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain are the supreme considerations. From a Christian perspective, worth comes from being a child of God and finding joy in Him, sacrificially loving others as we wait for eternal life in a better world.

(Michelle is a senior physics major at Cedarville University)

European Institute of Bioethics report

BreakPoint Commentary

LifeSite News Report

A Dangerous New Expansion of Abortion

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

In a move sure to anger pro-life advocates across the nation, a new California law now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. AB 154 will open the door for a variety of non-physician healthcare workers, such as nurses and midwives, to perform early medical and surgical abortions. Pro-choice groups and Planned Parenthood of California have sponsored the legislation, despite polls showing that two-thirds of Californians oppose the measure. It is almost certain that the governor will sign it.

In pushing through this aggressive agenda, Planned Parenthood and its allies are ignoring a number of significant facts that make this a very bad idea:

  • Abortion clinics have fewer regulations than for any other type of minor surgical procedure.
  • Complications from abortion are serious, and can be fatal if not recognized and treated early by a physician. These include infection, bleeding, and perforation of the uterus.
  • The training available to non-physicians in California is not even established by physicians; it is set up by the Board of Registered Nursing.
  • Physician supervision is very limited — The new law does not require a doctor to be present, or even available on site.

All of this, according to Brian Johnston, Executive Director of the California Pro-Life Council, means that women’s rights are trivialized:

The California Business and Professions Code prohibits abortions being done on animals unless the abortionist is a trained and certified veterinary surgeon. If 154 is made law, a mother dog will have more dignity in the eyes of California law than a vulnerable young mother talked into an abortion by a Planned Parenthood staffer.

These developments make it crystal clear that Planned Parenthood is not at all dedicated to helping women. They are more interested in profiting from increased revenue in this era of ObamaCare. And it further promotes a national culture of death.

MaxNews Article

LifeNews Report

CedarEthics Online: Latest Student Papers

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

The Center for Bioethics is happy to announce the latest edition in our online journal of outstanding student bioethics papers.

CedarEthics Online 12:2 (from spring, 2013):

Emily Delk has written a careful ethical review of a new reproductive technology:
A Kantian Ethical Analysis of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Leanne Dykstra has provided an insightful essay on the new technological ways to conceive children:
Having Babies: Personhood or Product?

Tyler John takes a classic moral argument in favor of abortion rights, and turns it on its head:
The Singer and the Violinist: When Pro-Choice Ethicists Are Out of Tune

To read these excellent papers and winners from earlier years, go to the CederEthics Online Website.


Are Placebos Ethical?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

What would you think if you found out the pain medication you had been taking for the past few months was a placebo instead of a “real medication?” Research has shown that some people get better, not because of the pharmacologic or physiologic effects of a pill, but because they believe they will benefit from it (i.e., the placebo effect). Some believe it is unethical for a health care provider to prescribe a placebo treatment, since it deceives the patient and therefore violates patient autonomy. However, a recent study by Hull and colleagues (2013) asked patients what they thought about placebo treatments, and the results may surprise you.

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey of 853 patients in the Kaiser Permanente health system, asking their thoughts about placebo treatments. Over 76% of those surveyed thought it was okay for health care providers to prescribe a placebo if it caused no harm, and nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated they themselves would take placebos! Yet, respondents also valued honesty, believing if patients questioned the medication, the health care provider should disclose to them that it was a placebo.

The clinical treatment of patients is complex. Health care providers often face a difficult choice: to prescribe medications which could also have harmful side effects or to prescribe placebos which could violate a patient’s autonomy. Perhaps, as these authors suggest, health care professionals should engage their patients in these ethical discussions to decide the appropriate place of placebos in therapy.

British Medical Journal article

Guest article by Dr. Aleda Chen, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice