This Week in Bioethics

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on May 13, 2016

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1. Euthanasia Expansion

If you need any evidence that the arguments in support of euthanasia or assisted-suicide are specious, read this story. A young woman in the Netherlands chose euthanasia by lethal injection. What was her terminal illness? She didn’t have one. Did she have less than six months to live? There is no evidence of that. She ended her life because she had suffered as a victim of sexual abuse from ages 5 – 15. Her diagnosis: PTSD, depression, anorexia, and hallucinations. She didn’t need a lethal injection. She needed proper care, compassion, and support.

2. Extreme Baby Making

A woman in her 70s has just given birth to her first child after two years of fertility treatments. Daljinder Kaur and her 79 year old husband are now parents to a healthy baby boy. The couple has been married for 46 years and was never able to conceive. One expert interviewed said it was “unfair to do such a procedure on a woman who is over 60.” Sixty? The medical and ethical issues this case exposes are countless!

3. To Be Taller

Speaking of India, another unregulated industry has popped up for limb lengthening! The frightening headline, “I have to be taller” speaks of people who felt they needed to be taller in order to improve their self-perception since to be tall is to be attractive in India. As far as the ethics of such a surgery, one doctor said, “I used to wonder whether what I’m doing is right, but when I saw how much their self-esteem was improving, I decided to keep going.”

4. Opting Out of Physician Assisted Suicide

We hope that Huntington Memorial Hospital in California becomes a trendsetter. They voted behind closed doors to opt-out of the state’s new physician assisted suicide law. Governor Brown has signed it, and it set to go into effect June 9. We agree with our good friend Wesley Smith, who says, “Just because something is legal, that doesn’t make it right.” We will follow this closely, but are thankful to see at least one hospital providing leadership that others may follow.

5. Not All Change is Progress

Editing human-embryos is now permitted in the newly updated guidelines issued by the International Society of Stem Cell Research (ISSCR). Famed basketball coach John Wooden is reported to have said, “Although there is no progress without change, not all change is progress.” This could not be a clearer example of change that is not progress. Editing human embryos (think cutting and pasting) is more than simply controversial. It raises a number of very serious ethical concerns: editing the human embryo for particular qualities we do or do not want (which raises the specter of eugenics), manipulation of human life at its very earliest stages, putting embryos in harm’s way, and, ultimately, it is tinkering with future generations. We say: Stop! Do No Harm!

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Thomas Hawk via flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)


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