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Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category

 

CedarEthics: New Student Papers

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

writing

The Center for Bioethics announces the latest edition in our online journal of outstanding student bioethics papers: : CedarEthics, Volume 14, Number 1. The new issue features the following interesting papers:

Virtue Ethics and Abortion, by Jacob Countryman

A Grounded Natural Law, by Benjamin German

Charity as a Moral Duty, by Erica Graham

 

In addition, Erica Graham has written a special, longer article entitled: A Biblical Approach to Cadaveric Organ Transplants

 

All of these papers are available full-text at the Cedarville University Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cedarethics/

NOTE: In the next edition of CedarEthics, we plan to open up for student submissions from across the Cedarville University campus, as well as from all of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. For more information, contact the Editor, at sullivan@cedarville.edu.

Persons Created in the Image of God

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

(by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla)

Lately, I have been asking myself an important question: do I truly believe that human persons are created in the image of God?  Or am I merely giving intellectual assent to this pivotal truth?

In the Creation-Fall-Redemption narrative of Scripture, our status as beings created in God’s image is foundational to our theology. It provides the foundation for rightly relating to our Creator and to our fellow man.  Far from being theoretical, our belief that human persons are created in God’s image should impact our daily lives in many practical ways.

  • It undergirds the Golden Rule and makes sense of the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • It causes us to protect the defenseless among us, including the poor, the oppressed, the infirm, and the unborn.
  • It implores us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

If I truly believe that my fellow humans are created in God’s image, my soul must not be content with holding life-affirming ethical views. Wholehearted belief should result in soul transformation.  My whole being should shrink from gossip, slander, or mistreatment of another human being, seeing these as insults to the Creator Himself. And as long as I live in this fallen world, I will continually wrestle to carry out this conviction, believing it to be God-given truth; truth that gives life and sets people free.

 

Believing that humans are persons created in the image of God should not only inform our ethical decisions. This truth, if acted upon, has the power to change the world.

Affirming Life Amid Chronic Pain

Monday, January 12th, 2015

(by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla)

Roughly 100 million Americans deal with chronic pain. The statistics belie an enormous economic and personal cost. Studies indicate that chronic pain remains undertreated, and in many cases, its causes are poorly understood.

There are plenty of resources online designed for chronic pain patients, their family and friends, and their physicians. My goal here is not to review the literature, though I will give you some resources for further reading. As a chronic pain patient, I wanted to summarize my personal experience, along what I have learned from fellow patients in online support groups.

  • We often feel misunderstood by our friends, families, and physicians.
  • We are at high risk for depression, and often experience physical symptoms, like fatigue. This can lead to social isolation, since there’s only so much our bodies will allow us to do.
  • We often do not look sick. We expend a great deal of energy trying to carry out normal functions, like caring for our families and contributing to our employers. In some cases, these functions aren’t even possible anymore, and we are forced to depend on others, not because we want to, but because our bodies just won’t allow us to do what we once did.
  • We encourage each other online and in “live” support groups. Interacting with others who are coping with similar challenges gives us the empathy that we may not be able to find from our physicians, family, and friends.
  • We are hopeful. We hope for better understanding of our conditions, and ultimately, for a cure. This hope can be a double-edged sword, however, as patients may be vulnerable to scams promising a “quick fix”.

How can we, as fellow humans, support those living with chronic pain in a way that affirms their dignity and worth?

  • Be compassionate. No one can truly know what another human being is dealing with.
  • Recognize signs of depression, and encourage chronic pain patients to get professional help, if needed.
  • If you know that a chronic pain patient is pursuing a medically risky treatment option, such as long-term fasting, a radical diet, or other behavior that appears to be unsafe, encourage them to check in with their healthcare provider.
  • Be a friend. Positive relationships help affirm meaning and purpose.

For additional information, these resources are a great place to start:

The American Chronic Pain Association

The American Pain Society

The National Pain Foundation

Abortion, Ultrasound, and the Law

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Month 7

It might seem uncontroversial that patients need complete information in order to make an informed decision regarding invasive medical procedures. Except, of course, for abortion, which always has a strong ideological overlay.

This is especially true amid recent attempts to mandate that women have an ultrasound before pregnancy termination. A pre-procedure ultrasound confirms the location of the fetus within the uterus – this prevents performing abortion in cases of tubal pregnancy or false pregnancy. Ohio law goes further, and specifies that “the abortionist must provide the woman an opportunity to view the active ultrasound image of the fetus or embryo.” The law has not been successfully challenged. Such common-sense provisions would seem to give women the most information possible before making a critical decision that will affect them for months and years to come.

However, a recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upheld striking down a North Carolina law. which requires doctors “to perform an ultrasound, display the sonogram and describe the fetus to women seeking abortions.” The issue here is one of free speech, where physicians are forced by law to give certain instructions, a requirement which opponents claim has the intended ideological goal of restricting abortion.

Should the right to free speech trump the right to life of the unborn? Stay tuned; this will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

Ohio Ultrasound Law

Reuters News Article

New Name, New Look for Center for Bioethics Blog

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

CU Logo

Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

This is the new name for the Center for Bioethics blog. We have also updated the appearance in line with the Center website. We will continue to offer weekly commentaries on issues of ongoing interest, including health care, general ethics, theology, and moral philosophy. The issues will not go away — they include abortion, stem cell research, end of life, rights of conscience, contraceptives, genetics, reproductive technologies, health care (and how to pay for it), and a host of other topics of great interest to all.

Please subscribe and follow along!

Time for Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

 

Marlboro Cigarettes

(By Douglas Anderson, PharmD, DPh)

A recent study has revealed that 6% of patients receiving medications for chronic lung disorders also bought cigarettes at the same time. Cigarette smoking is well known as a cause of these diseases, and also increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. Such conditions are among the leading causes of death in the United States.

It is contradictory for pharmacies to sell cigarettes as well as medications to combat chronic lung ailments. This not only impacts the health of the patient, but it is also contrary to the duties of the pharmacist, whose oath states that the “…welfare of humanity and relief of human suffering [are] my primary concerns.” In February 2014, CVS, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, announced that it would stop selling all cigarettes and other tobacco products. This may cost CVS some profits. True, customers can simply buy their cigarettes somewhere else, and this is unlikely to decrease tobacco use overall (grocery stores with pharmacies will probably continue to sell tobacco). But the pharmacy profession is moving away from a customer focus to a patient focus. To this end, CVS put the health of their patients and the sanctity of the pharmacist’s oath above profits, and this is commendable.

It is time for all pharmacies to do the ethical thing, and to stop selling tobacco products that destroy the health that pharmacists are called to protect.

JAMA Internal Medicine article

 

Could GMOs Help Solve Global Health Issues?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

gmo-tomato

(By Dr. Heather Kuruvilla)

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are often portrayed as unnatural, potentially harmful, and just plain scary. Like any technology, genetically modified organisms have some potential risks, both to people and to the environment. We don’t know if the newly engineered proteins may be allergenic or otherwise harmful to humans. And there’s always a risk that engineered traits could “migrate” from the engineered species into native species, causing unforeseen environmental consequences.

The potential benefits of GMOs, however, are too often under-reported. What if we could solve pressing global health issues, like malnutrition, or vaccine distribution, using GMOs? The Golden Rice project addresses vitamin A deficiency by engineering rice to produce beta-carotene. In parts of the world where rice is part of the diet and vitamin A deficiency is endemic, golden rice could be a substitute for white rice.

In areas of the world without much infrastructure, vaccine distribution is a formidable challenge. But if folks could grow their own banana vaccines, they might be protected from Hepatitis B. This would also reduce potential complications such as liver cancer. Work on banana vaccines has is tricky, since bananas are not all the same size, and it would be difficult to know when a patient has the right “dose” of a banana.

Even if we can’t use fruit to make oral vaccines, perhaps GMOs can still help us fight disease. For example, the experimental Ebola vaccine ZMapp is grown in genetically modified tobacco plants. A genetically modified flu vaccine, using insect cells to produce viral proteins, has recently been approved by the FDA.

Maybe GMOs aren’t so scary after all.

Sources:

www.goldenrice.org/

www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/14/1/1978/htm

www.webmd.com/news/20140804/ebola-virus-vaccine

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/07/12/fda-approves-first-gmo-flu-vaccine-expected-on-market-in-2014

CedarEthics: New Student Papers

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

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

For example, in her paper, “Ethical Duties in Ectopic Pregnancy,” recent graduate Josephine Hein describes the clinical condition:

An ectopic pregnancy (EP), from Latin roots meaning “out of place,” is a pregnancy that does not correctly implant into its normal location in the endometrium of the uterus. Instead, the developing embryo implants in the fallopian tube, the cervix, the ovaries, or the abdominal or pelvic cavity. EPs today constitute about 2% of all pregnancies, of which 97% implant in the fallopian tube. A ruptured EP can be deadly, leading to 6% of all maternal deaths from massive hemorrhage. What are the ethical implications of treating this condition?

In addition, current student Lynley Turkelson has a fascinating analysis of end-of-life fears, in her article: “Why Christians are Afraid of Removing Artificial Nutrition and Hydration.”

Finally, bioethics graduate student and professional chaplain Thomas Kehr gives a comprehensive summary of end-of-life care in: “End of Life Ethics: Hospice and Advance Directives.”

All of these papers are available full-text at the Cedarville University Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cedarethics/

Pro-Life: A Broader Meaning

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

baby_in_womb

(By Dr. Heather Kuruvilla)

What do you think of when you hear the term “pro-life?” Do anti-abortion protestors come to mind? Do you imagine volunteers faithfully reaching out to women with crisis pregnancies? Do you reflect on lawyers and legislators working to change our laws to recognize the unborn as persons? These are all good and necessary, but being pro-life means much more. A robust pro-life ethic comes from a theological position holding mankind in high regard, created in God’s image.

If we truly believe that all people are image-bearers of God, then this belief involves many ways of “loving our neighbor.” Here are just a few examples:

  • We should reject the “hookup culture” because it devalues human worth and dignity.
  • We should support hospice and palliative care that treats the dying with compassion and dignity until the natural end of their earthly lives.
  • We should search for safe, productive alternatives to the destruction of human embryos for research.
  • We should support sustainable farming practices and wise stewardship of agricultural technologies to adequately feed more of the world’s population.
  • We should provide clean water and increased access to health care for all who lack these resources.
  • We should adopt or provide foster care for the orphans among us, in keeping with biblical commands.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it illustrates the idea that the “pro-life” movement needs people with many different gifts. We need healthcare workers, environmentalists, researchers, biotechnologists, and other committed citizens, united in this common view: human life is precious because it reflects an awesome Creator. A broader definition of “pro-life” means that every member of the body of Christ can uphold these principles, while living a life committed to the Gospel. In fact, many of us are already doing so. May the Lord give us grace to continue.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25:40).

Ezekiel Emanuel is Wrong

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Physician-ethicist Ezekiel Emanuel seems to love being at the center of controversy. One of the architects of Affordable Care Act, he is director of Clinical Bioethics at the NIH and chairs the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at U Penn. He has frequently (and often unfairly) been criticized for pointing out the flaws in our current health care system, which he describes as  “truly dysfunctional” (Wash. Post). Worse of all, many think of him as a real utilitarian pragmatist, and have accused him of trying to ration health care. He has denied this.

So it comes as a bit of a shock to see Emanuel’s latest article in the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” He claims that he will stop using the health care system at age 75. He puts it this way:

[H]ere is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long . . . renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic (source below).

Emanuel goes on to say that this is no death wish, but he feels that he may no longer be productive and enjoy things at age 75. So he hopes that will be the end. If he has cancer or develops pneumonia, he will refuse chemotherapy or antibiotics. His last colonoscopy will be at age 65. And when he hits 75, no flu shot.

Why this somber navel-gazing with 18 years to go?  What is Emanuel trying to prove? He is implying, I think, that there is no more to life than our contributions to society. He is subtly saying that older patients are selfish to use so many health care resources, and that we should all just forget about living long lives. Ah, but that of course is the ultimate lie that so many functionalists would have you believe. We are valuable because of what we do, not for who we are.

On the other hand, the Christian view of the human person teaches that we are valuable for our own right. Each of us was made “a little lower than God,” and our Creator has crowned us “with glory and majesty” (Psalm 8:5, NASB). The elderly deserve honor; they have the right to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Our value is intrinsic, and does not depend on our age or our abilities.

Don’t let a pontificating utilitarian make you feel guilty for living out the full lifespan that God has allotted you.

Article in The Atlantic

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