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Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

The Bioethics of Charlie Gard

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

By center director Sullivan, along with guest blogger Keegan D’Alfonso

What can we say about poor little Charlie Gard? This 11-month-old infant in the U.K. suffers from a rare and incurable disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, leaving him unconscious, on life support, and with almost no prospects for survival. Until just a few days ago, his parents wanted to continue treating him, even consulting with a specialist in the U.S. The hospital and the government have refused to release the child, claiming it is not in his best interests to continue aggressive therapy.

Though the parents have now given up on the court case, the public debate has been intense and polarizing. Here are a few excerpts – note the widely divergent opinions expressed:

A professor at University College of London:

[C]hildren do not belong to their parents. . . Parents cannot always be the ultimate arbiters of their children’s interests. [source]


From Russel Moore: “The European courts’ abuse of their power by usurping the authority of Charlie’s parents regarding his care is shocking to the conscience.” [source]


From the Telegraph (U.K.): “A civilised society doesn’t let parents do what they like with their children – however much they love them.” [source]


Americans United for Life: “Vulnerable people – the sick, the elderly, the infirm – deserve life-saving treatment – not a death sentence.” [source]


A prominent physician-ethicist, in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “[We must maintain] a commitment to upholding the integrity of medical practice by refusing to provide treatments that fail to meet a reasonable threshold of scientific justification.” [source]

 

Finally, we conclude with lawyer Wesley Smith, writing in the journal First Things:

The refusal to allow Charlie’s parents to remove their baby boy from the hospital is an act of bioethical aggression that will extend futile-care controversies, creating a duty to die at the time and place of doctors’ choosing. And that raises a crucial liberty question: Whose baby is Charlie Gard? His parents’? Or are sick babies—and others facing futile-care impositions—ultimately owned by the hospital and the state?

 

Health Care: Right or Privilege?

Monday, February 27th, 2017 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

(by guest blogger Eric Stigall, student at Ashland Theological Seminary)
Is Health Care a Right or a Privilege? In this era of managed care and the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”), this is a loaded question. According to the U.S. Department of Health, about 10% of the population currently does not have access to health care. Since health insurance is tied to employment, this may largely be due to the poor coverage of low to medium income jobs, or to ineligibility to financial assistance and Medicaid.

OK, so this raises a big moral question: how do we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, created in God’s image? It’s too easy to frame this as merely an economic question, as though the unemployed have only themselves to blame. A casual glance at the gospel record should give us pause:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me (Matthew 25:36-37).

 

So this implies that we have a moral duty to offer basic health care to all. Ethicist Ronald Sider put it this way:

It is a sinful abomination for one part of the world’s Christians to grow richer year by year while our brothers and sisters ache and suffer for lack of minimal health care, minimal education, and even — in some cases — enough food to escape starvation.*

 

I know this seems simplistic, but these facts should at least make us humble. As the people of God, we must continue to reflect upon and deeply discern the needs that impact so many in our society today.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, and there are surely two sides to this complex question. Please help me to think this one through: is healthcare just simple economics, or is it a basic human right?

References:

*Ronal Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, Thomas Nelson, 2015.
Pro and Con Arguments on Healthcare

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bioethics in Faith & Practice: Latest Issue

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

Bioethics in Faith and Practice has just published its latest issue. As we close out 2016, the New Year brings many ethical challenges. This edition of the journal features dilemmas at the beginning of life, the end of life, and in the laboratory. Features in this issue:

The first editorial discusses the new trend to facilitate assisted suicide, now legal by statute in five states. This is a dangerous trend, with serious negative implications for modern medicine. Dr. Kuruvilla, our Managing Editor, then discusses the new CRISPR technology, a novel new gene-editing technology that may allow for some truly breathtaking possibilities, especially in the fight against cancer. But there are many hidden ethical dangers.

The first of our full-length articles in this issue is by attorney Gregory Smith, and deals with the thorny issue of the persistent vegetative state (PVS). Using a perspective from Catholic moral philosophy, he asks if artificial nutrition and hydration are always obligatory in such cases.

Finally, pastor and hospital chaplain Mark Lones discusses the issue of reproductive surrogacy. His analysis gives us multiple reasons to consider surrogacy highly problematic from an ethical perspective.

All of these articles, along with the Senior Editor’s preview, are available in the Cedarville University Digital Commons, at this link.

 

Bioethics Challenges for the New Year

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

A colleague of mine has referred to this modern era as the “Biotech Century.” More than ever before, biological research and medical science have improved our lives, but have created new ethical dilemmas as well. Here are some of the major trends to watch for in the coming year.

Issues at the Beginning of Life

  1. Abortion. Forty-four years after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Americans are more conflicted about the issue of abortion than ever before. 18 states have banned the procedure at 20 weeks of gestation. Such “pain-capable” abortion bans are based on the idea that the 20 week-old fetus has enough neurological development to feel pain, making abortion a form of torture. With a Republican administration in Washington, watch for renewed attempts to appoint conservatives to the bench and to overturn Roe.
  2. Reproductive technologies. Choices, choices: so many ways to have a baby. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). have pushed the envelope, making a genetically-related baby more and more possible for childless couples. The downside? Thousands of human embryos frozen for future use, discarded, or experimented on. A fundamental question remains: Are our children the God-ordained offspring of a loving marital union, or are they merely the products of an assembly line?

Issues at the End of Life

  1. When does death occur? New protocols are making it easier to withdraw care from acutely-injured patients, in order to provide more organs for transplants. Slippery-slope concerns should cause all of us to worry about the details.
  2. Assisted suicide. The American Medical Association is re-thinking its traditional opposition to medically-assisted death. As a part of this trend, five states have passed laws allowing doctors to help terminally-ill patients to end their lives at a time of their choosing. So who owns the life that we live, we ourselves or the Creator Who made us?

From the Laboratory

  1. Animal-human chimeras. Here’s an interesting idea: genetically modify a species of pig, making it incapable of growing a pancreas. Incubate the pig embryo with human pancreas cells, so that the resulting piglet has a human-derived pancreas, which can be used as a donor organ for transplant. Such a procedure might be a cure for diabetes, and may be ready for human trials soon. How about the ethics of all this? The devil is in the details.
  2. Gene editing. The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 produced the genetic blueprint of the human species, leading to a plethora of new research ideas. One revolutionary new insight takes advantage of a bacterial defense mechanism to recognize foreign DNA. A new procedure modifies this into a molecular “machine” that can actually edit any genome, including those of human beings. So-called CRISPR technology may make some very nifty things possible: think of engineered mosquitoes incapable of transmitting the Zika virus. But this new technique opens up some very disturbing ideas about modifying human nature itself.

Stay tuned – We’ll be talking about these and other trends in 2017.

In the meantime, have a blessed and productive New Year!

Links Related to Topics Discussed:
Pain-Capable Abortion Bans
Reproductive Technologies

Brain Death

Assisted Suicide

Animal-Human Chimeras
More about Gene Editing

Pharmacist Conscience Rights Denied

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

Mortar

Disappointing news from the United States Supreme Court: Pharmacists in the state of Washington have no conscience protections in regard to contraceptive drugs, even those that may induce abortion. In the case of Stormans v. Wiesman, the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway Pharmacy declined to stock certain contraceptives, such as Plan B, that may cause an early abortion. Dispensing such a drug conflicts with the sincere pro-life views of Kevin Stormans and his family.

In the past, when abortifacient drugs were requested, the Stormans would simply and graciously refer the client to one of “more than 30 other pharmacies within five miles of Ralph’s.” This type of arrangement is a time-honored move that has been legal and ethical in all 50 states – until now. Recently enacted State Board of Pharmacy rules now require dispensing all contraceptive agents, regardless of their mechanism of action, and regardless of any ethical views held by pharmacists. The Stormans family sued to retain their right of conscience.

An unfavorable Ninth Circuit Court ruling led to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on June 28th denied certiorari, that is, they refused to hear the case. In his written dissent, Justice Samuel Alito described the clearly anti-religious bias of the high court:

This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for — or that they actually serve — any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State.

 

The impact of this ruling will be widespread, and directly affects healthcare professionals throughout the Ninth Circuit Court’s jurisdiction, which includes nine western states. A similar law is currently pending in California (part of the Ninth Circuit).

Make no mistake: conscience rights are under attack. Healthcare professionals of faith may be driven from their vocation by these draconian regulations. Christians must take a stand, and we must pray.

National Review

Alliance Defending Freedom

 

 

Now Proven: Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly

Friday, April 15th, 2016 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

SAMap

When I first heard about a newer mosquito-borne infection in South America, similar to Dengue fever, but with the possibility of causing birth defects, I was not too worried. I thought the news reports were overblown, and that the actual danger here in the U.S. was minimal. I was wrong. Now even the normally conservative Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that Zika is “scarier than we initially thought.”

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, endemic in Brazil and other parts of South American, but also common in the southern United States. It should be noted that sexual interaction can also spread the virus.So far, the disease has only appeared in those patients who have visited affected areas:

With global infection rates of the Zika virus increasing rapidly, physicians should be prepared to handle possible cases of the virus and answer patients’ questions. No locally acquired vector-borne Zika virus cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been confirmed in returning travelers.

 

A recent CDC report has confirmed that Zika can definitely cause microcephaly. This leads to abnormally small brains in babies born of women infected with Zika during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is not yet known what percentage of infected women’s babies actually have this problem, or what other abnormalities may appear. It is entirely possible that other problems may arise with Zika infection, or that it may even lead to miscarriages.

This is all the more worrisome because symptoms of Zika infection are often mild, and many infected subjects are asymptomatic. The CDC and World Health Organization have both issued recommendations that women in affected areas should use birth control or avoid sexual intimacy at this time.

In predominantly-Catholic South American countries, such as Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, abortion is illegal. But fear of Zika-infected women having babies with birth defects has led many to demand termination of their pregnancies. The Zika crisis may be used as a wedge to loosen abortion restrictions in the near future.

AMA Resource Website on Zika Virus

USA Today report on CDC advisory

Gene Editing in Animals May Become Controversial

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

salmon

(by guest blogger Kathryn Sill)
Your tall glass of milk may come from an unexpected source, thanks to DNA modification in animals. Also known as gene editing, this process uses enzymes to alter an animal’s DNA in specific advantageous ways. This may change an animal’s appearance or increase muscle mass. Such methods may be used to create better food products, to fight diseases, or even to design a household pet.

There are some major ethical concerns with all of this. Animal rights activists claim it is abusive to animals, while those concerned with food safety worry about the effects of modified DNA in the food chain. Finally, many fear that gene editing in animals will eventually lead to gene editing of human embryos.

These concerns are not far-fetched. The FDA has just approved the first genetically modified salmon for widespread consumption, soon to be available in American supermarkets. Stay tuned for a complex and perhaps divisive public debate.

Sources:
* Animal Gene Editing
* Genetically Engineered Salmon

New Journal Launch!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

Journal Logo framed

The Center for Bioethics is pleased to announce the launch of a new, peer-reviewed academic journal: Bioethics in Faith and Practice.

The focus of the new journal is Health Care Ethics, but it also may include articles of a more theoretical nature. Though it will emphasize Judeo-Christian values, we will be open to a large variety of voices, including secular ones. The first issue is now available online, at: http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/bioethics_in_faith_and_practice/.

Both academic and clinical scholars should consider submitting to the new journal. Submissions may include case study analysis or longer commentaries and reviews. Appropriate clinical ethics topics may also include reproductive ethics, end-of-life matters, stem cell research, abortion, genetic ethics, research ethics, and conscience rights for health professionals. We are open to more theoretical matters as well, such as nuances of ethical theory, meta-ethics, and metaphysics as it relates to human nature. The perspective may be from medicine, nursing, biology, pharmaceutical sciences, psychology, social work, chaplaincy, and biblical scholarship.

Articles submitted for consideration should be of interest to the educated professional, but not restricted to the specialist. An author need not be a full-time academic of a member of a college or university faculty. Submitted papers will be reviewed by the Editorial Advisory Board, made up of ten Cedarville University faculty, plus six from outside the institution.

 

 

 

The Legacy of a Pro-Life Pioneer

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

JCW2

Dr. Jack Willke has passed away at age 89, the great patriarch of the pro-life movement. Here is how he is remembered in the pages of the National Review:

[Dr. Willke] and his wife Barbara dedicated their entire lives to defending the unborn. They were publicly speaking and writing about abortion well before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the Willkes advised pro-life activists who were trying to block various state-level efforts to expand access to abortion. In 1972, their advice to Michigan pro-lifers to show pictures of aborted babies was crucial to the defeat of a referendum that would have legalized abortion in Michigan. The famous Willke slides of fetal development are still used in pro-life presentations to this day. . .
Dr. Willke’s impact went well beyond the numerous books he wrote and the presentations he made. He was a father figure to many and inspired countless people to become pro-life activists. He was the founder of the International Right to Life Federation and made countless overseas trips to advise and train and motivate pro-lifers in other countries. Here at home, he did important behind-the-scenes work in getting various factions of the pro-life movement to collaborate.

I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Willke, and worked beside him during my years on the board of Ohio Right to Life. Among other things, he taught me how to testify in support of pro-life legislation before House and Senate committees in the Ohio Statehouse. He was a godly man with a humble and charitable spirit. But he fought hard on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.

He was one of my personal heroes, and I will miss him greatly.

National Review Article

Center for Bioethics Launches New Academic Journal

Monday, February 16th, 2015 by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla

Smith_Premier_TypewriterPhoto courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Center for Bioethics is launching a new peer-reviewed academic journal entitled Bioethics in Faith and Practice: Exploring the Moral Dimension in Healthcare.  From the journal website:

 

Bioethics in Faith and Practice is a new peer-reviewed professional journal, through the Center for Bioethics at Cedarville University. The focus of this new journal is Health Care Ethics, but it will also include articles of a more theoretical nature. Though it will emphasize Judeo-Christian values, we will be open to a large variety of voices, including secular ones. We hope to publish the first issue by July of 2015. After that, it will appear online twice a year.

 

The journal is now open for the submission of new manuscripts.  We are accepting submissions of papers from a variety of perspectives on healthcare-related issues, and hope to represent a diverse spectrum of academic disciplines.  Both applied and theoretical topics are welcome.  For more information on the journal, as well as the “Instructions for Authors”, please follow the link to the journal website below.

We are excited about this new journal, and hope it will serve as a valuable resource to practitioners and academicians alike.

Bioethics in Faith and Practice