I recently had a conversation with a mentor and friend, that encouraged me to contemplate on what it means as professional to be engaged in the issues of bioethics. So rather than address a particular issue or news item this week, I decided to share a few of my thoughts on why bioethics matter and why we should engage in these issues.
First, bioethics matter because we are people created in the image of God. Living in a way that recognizes the inherent dignity that results from this truth requires treating everyone with respect, compassion, and as beings of the utmost value.
Second, issues of bioethics affect everyone. We are all born, will need healthcare, and will eventually die. I don’t intend to be morbid, but with each of these major stages, bioethical issues arise. Whether we struggle with infertility, need treatment for disease, or are struggling with losing a loved one, bioethics will touch our lives very personally at some point. Having an understanding of these issues can help when put in a position where you must make a decision that will have an ethical impact in your life, or the lives of those you love.
Third, as an attorney, I am often asked “What does the law say about ____” (you can fill in the blank). With issues of bioethics, there may or not may not be a law addressing a particular bioethical issue, and even where there is, using this as the sole measuring point of whether or not an action should be taken can be problematic. Though the law provides parameters in which we must operate, it does not always equate to what is ethical. It often sets up situations where “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Having an understanding of bioethical issues, as a professional, helps answer the question of “What should I do?” instead of just focusing on “What am I allowed I do?”
Finally, bioethics allows us to speak guidance into people’s lives at various life stages, often presented in trying circumstances. It provides us the opportunity to be a point of grace in the life of someone who has reached a point of vulnerability or suffering.