Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for April, 2014


Can the Unborn Feel Pain?

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

The past few months have seen an increase in state bans on late-term abortion, at 20 weeks or later. No one claims that such bills will have a huge impact, since the majority of abortions are in the first trimester (up to 12 weeks). So why this emphasis on the later stages?

For one thing, this is an incremental pro-life strategy. Just like 48-hour waiting periods and bills requiring an ultrasound before abortion, such measures may cause women to think twice and carefully consider their options before making a decision they may later regret. For another thing, it is increasingly clear that 20 week-old fetuses can feel pain. Here’s some of the evidence:

  1. Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body at 20 weeks of development.
  2. Nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and sub-cortical plate by no later than 20 weeks.
  3. The connection between the spinal cord and the thalamus starts to develop from 14 weeks onwards and is finished at 20 weeks.
  4. From 16 weeks’ gestation pain transmission from a peripheral receptor to the cortex is possible and completely developed at 26 weeks’ gestation.

It seems amazing that many oppose such measures because “the evidence isn’t all in,” or because “we need more discussion.” In fact, neuroscience and developmental biology are very clear on these  scientific facts. It seems to me that being pro-choice at this stage of development is to be pro-torture.

World Magazine article
Doctors on Fetal Pain


Can We Learn from Peter Singer?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

by guest blogger Tyler John, senior philosophy major

In a recent Cedarville University chapel message, Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler spoke at length about human dignity. He rightly criticized Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, for saying that some pigs should have more rights than some human infants. This of course raises serious objections from a Christian viewpoint. But maybe there is something Dr. Singer can teach us, or at least remind us of.

In his book The Life You Can Save, he argues that if we fail to donate money to the poor, we do something morally wrong. He makes an argument on the basis of a thought experiment:

On your way to work, you pass a small pond. As you get closer, you see that there is a very young child, just a toddler, who is flailing about, unable to stay upright or walk out of the pond. The child is unable to keep his head above the water for more than a few seconds at a time. If you don’t wade in and pull him out, he seems likely to drown. Wading in is easy and safe, but you will ruin the new shoes you bought only a few days ago, and get your suit wet and muddy. What should you do?

From here, Singer argues that many of us are in this actual situation every day. We are able to donate money to save dying children if we simply give up a nice pair of shoes or a luxury car or something else we might want. Consequently, we ought to give up these things for the sake of others.

It seems striking how atheist Peter Singer’s argument resonates with two ancient concepts from the Christian tradition: the Tithe, and the Good Samaritan. In this case, Singer asks us to do just what Jesus asks us to do. We should stop to help the poor, offering up a portion of our income so that others might live.