Tag: government

Blog Posts (17)

March 24, 2016

A Few Thoughts On Abortion and Valuing Human Life

Who could be against life? Ancient natural law theory in the Catholic tradition tells us that human beings desire to live, and that life is good, therefore humans have an obligation to live and not kill other human beings. This ancient wisdom has been instilled into western ways of moral thinking. So, who could not be prolife in terms of how we place value on all individual human life?

Who could be against human freedom? Individual human beings should be free to live peacefully in accordance with their own values and life goals. This is a basic tenet of democracy that has shaped moral and political thinking in the West for the past four centuries. So, who could not be against the exercise of free choice, especially about something so basic as having control over our bodies?

The two value perspectives contained in the prior two paragraphs, all things equal, are eminently reasonable and most ethically unproblematic. These two value positions represent two fundamental principles of ethics—the intrinsic value of all individual human lives and the right of free individuals to govern their own lives and bodies—that guide us in living an ethical life and making ethical decisions. It is when these fundamental principles come into direct conflict that a serious, a near irresolvable, ethical conflict arises. There is no greater direct conflict of these two ethical principles than right of women to have an abortion. It is commonly assumed that one is either on one side of this moral abyss or the other and the twain shall never meet. It seems to me one of the central tasks of ethical reflection on this issue is to find as much meaningful middle ground as possible. In this brief blog I’ll offer a few ideas in this regard, which advocates on either extreme will likely find unsatisfactory.

 

Once a fetus reaches full term and emerges at birth into the world as a separate human being, there is no question about its full moral standing—from my perspective this would include babies with the most serious birth defects, including anencephaly. Some bioethicists believe that a being must have interests to have full moral standing. Since babies with anencephaly, if they survive a short time after birth, have no brain, no capacity to experience pain or pleasure, and no future life, they have no interests. The latter may be true descriptions of babies with this disorder, but they are unequivocally individual human beings. And there is no reason, as the law currently supports, to justify killing or euthanizing the lives of these babies in my view. So can’t the same be said of a fetus from the moment of conception?

It is true that a human embryo is a biologically a distinct form of individual human life and because of that fact has moral worth and deserves respect. But there is a basic aspect of fetal life even after viability and prior to birth that is inescapable: the fetus is dependent on the mother for its life and is part of the woman’s body. There is no protecting the fetus prior to birth without controlling the bodies of pregnant women. At the same time, at the very least, abortion as I am defining my terms is morally concerning and even problematic. I realize many of my pro-choice friends will find that conclusion concerning, but it is simply a consequence of recognizing the moral humanity of fetal life. So the key question then becomes who should make this moral or ethical decision and how should abortion services be regulated under the law?

A moderate position that seeks to preserve as many values as possible in this conflict, it seems to me, will recognize elective abortion as a moral issue but will reject the notion that it should be restricted as a service under the law. For if the law seeks to protect fetal life by restricting abortions, ipso facto, it also seeks to restrict the liberty of the woman to control her body as she so desires. The idea of requiring a woman to keep an unwanted pregnancy is an assault to her dignity as free human being. We cannot pretend to live in a free society where men and women have equal moral worth if we do not extend full moral autonomy to both men and women equally.

I conclude abortion is a moral issue and like many moral issues they are decisions that individual free human people should make and should not be the business of government to regulate. But it is not trivial to recognize abortion as a moral issue. We should not only talk, but also act, like all human life as value. We can provide adequate healthcare to all people, which should include family planning, prenatal, and birth control services for woman. We should provide more day care for parents, particularly single parents and other support services to make having children easier.

In short we can be a society that acts like it values all human life, of which fetal life is a part. But the ethical position of valuing all human life in terms of ascribing full moral standing to individual human beings cannot extend individual fetal life if we are to full value women as autonomous human beings.

 

 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

October 16, 2015

If I Were Running the Place

<p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">I have a riddle for you.  Start with six attorneys; add three management consultants, three financial executives/advisors and a couple of bankers. Sprinkle in, one each, clothing store chain CEO and entertainment retail chain CEO. Add executives from a supermarket chain, a construction company, and a paper products company. Fold in a hedge fund manager, real estate executive, and an accountant. Finish with a reputation management expert and exactly one educator and one physician. What have you got? Perhaps you have the membership of an exclusive club, perhaps a class reunion of an exclusive prep school. No not these.  I will not make you guess any more. What you have is the Board of Directors of a large academic medical center which includes a major teaching hospital and a medical school. This academic medical center educates medical students and physicians, graduate students in science and other health professions. This teaching hospital is a major health care provider in the state capital of a large northeastern state. The academic medical center is the leading biomedical research organization in the region.</span></p> <p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">The Board of Directors is fully responsible for the governance of this large and complex organization. This organization has a mission to educate, to conduct biomedical research, and to provide patient care services. I was expecting to see that this list of directors would include expertise from renowned educators with national reputations. I was expecting to see a list containing outstanding biomedical researchers who discovered knowledge which made the world a better place. I was expecting leaders from the field of healthcare and medicine. But that is not what I found. I was surprised.</p> <p><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
September 10, 2015

Will America Ever Come To Terms With Its Past?

<p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">In my <a href="/BioethicsBlog/post.cfm/some-reflections-on-summer-vacation-reading">last blog</a> I wrote, what was in effect, a review of three books from my summer reading I did while on vacation. The first book covered the life of George Washington from the time of his resignation as General in the Continental Army, through his leadership in the Constitutional Convention in 1788, until his inauguration ceremony on 1789. The second book was a narrative history of the Great Migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow south to Northern and Western cities, and the hardships they endured throughout. And finally the third book was a contemporary description of what it is like to live in a black body today in the United States. I have been continuing my thoughts on the fate of blacks in America.</span></p> <p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">From the era of George Washington, we see the American political and social power structure becoming embedded into a political system filled, from the first moment with enormous hope but with equal, deeply troubling contradictions. There was eloquent language of the “many” no longer having to remain subservient to the “few” that seemed to reflect through reason the rights of human kind. Yet it was equally clear that Washington’s America was created to protect the financial interests of privileged white males as many human beings were excluded from participation in the new, fledgling nation, including women, native Americans who would be driven from the lands and basically exterminated, and African Americans, a few of whom were free but most enslaved as the property of white slave owners. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
August 21, 2015

Some Reflections On Summer Vacation Reading

<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">I love to read novels and works of non-fiction in concentrated sittings so I can really lose myself in what I am reading. Because I am so busy during the course of my work-a-day professional life I rarely have such luxury. This is why vacation for me means a time when I can find a few really interesting books on my reading list and just devour them. Having recently returned from vacation and being overdue for my AMBI Blog, I thought I would share a few thoughts on my vacation reading, and even see if there is a lesson for bioethics.</p> <p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">This summer my reading was unusual in that it was all non-fiction, which included “The Return of George Washington” by Edward J. Larson, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I really didn’t plan to be reading these books together. But as it turns out, after finishing all three, I found a theme of interesting, often disturbing, questions about the past and present treatment of African Americans in the United States—questions that challenge the moral foundation and integrity of American democracy from its origins to the present.</span></p> <p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
April 16, 2015

Gonzales vs. Oregon

<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">We are always pleased to support the activities of young scholars who are interested in bioethics. <a href="http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/440733/Gonzales-v.-Oregon/">This link</a> is a timeline of the Supreme Court case Gonzales vs. Oregon. It was prepared by Ms. Maggie Kirby who attends high school at U-32 in Vermont. It does a terrific job of documenting this important bioethics case and binging awareness to the ongoing debate about physician-assisted suicide. Great work Maggie! </p> <p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;"> </span></p>
April 9, 2015

Ideological Struggles Old and New in America: The Inappropriate Use of Coercive State Authority

<p><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">The history of America from the beginning was a struggle of opposing ideological perspectives over the role of the state’s power vis-à-vis the consciences of individual citizens. The 17</span><sup style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">th</sup><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> century Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony basically transported to America the same kind of religious, state intrusion into the lives of individuals they were trying to escape in England by requiring citizens to subscribe to the official state religion. Fortunately, there were courageous individuals there at the time, like Roger Williams (1603-1683), who strongly resisted such requirements. Williams, prior to coming to America, had been educated at Cambridge and worked for Lord Chief Justice </span><a style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Coke">Edward Coke</a><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">. (1552-1634)</span><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">  </span><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Coke was the famous English jurist whose work provided much of the foundations of the Anglo-American legal system, and who famously “declared the king to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of "common right and reason”.</span><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">  </span><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">No doubt Williams’ prior education and influences from Coke, and from others like Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who taught him the way of learning through experiment and observation, helped temper his strong theological commitments in relation to his views about the proper relationship between the authority of the state and religion, and the extent to which the state could have control over the consciences of free individuals, what Williams called “soul liberty”. Williams himself did not have theological quarrels with the Puritans; however, he did not believe religious conviction could be coerced. It was on this moral and political basis, that Williams founded Rhode Island, the first state ever to have a constitution guaranteeing expansive freedom of conscience to individual citizens. Fortunately, the thinking of Williams became the mindset of the key founders, particularly Jefferson (1743-1826) and Madison (1751-1836), of the American constitutional system. (For a full account of Roger Williams’ life and influence, see the wonderful book, </span><em style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty</em><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> by John M. Barry)</span></p> <p><strong style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;"> </span></p>
September 16, 2014

Is It Possible To Do Bioethics In Contemporary America?

<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Ok, I realize I am being somewhat provocative. But there is a real and very serious issue, which I am groping to address in a more precise manner.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">In my last blog I described the contemporary moral setting from a philosophical perspective as one in which no single substantive normative moral perspective can resolve moral questions, such as the boundaries of human life and the scope of individual rights, with final moral authority. This is just to say, more simply and obviously when we reflect upon it, that in democratic, secular America, ethics, both philosophically and practically, becomes inextricably linked to public discourse in politics and public policy.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">When bioethicists ask questions and make arguments about abortion, physician assisted suicide, stem cell research and cloning, and many other similar issues that pertain to questions about the value of human life in relation to both individual rights and societal goals, we have no privileged moral authority from which to draw. As bioethicists we engage in procedural, persuasive discourse, based on conventional moral principles that most often conflict, which is why there is moral dilemma or problem requiring analysis and prioritization. Our purpose in defending a particular moral position is to win assent from others. In short, for a bioethicist to promote a moral position, it is implicitly an attempt to build a consensus among readers and listeners that will hopefully impact public opinion about a particular moral problem or question. Moreover, to the extent these questions have public policy ramifications, and practically all do, it means that moral discourse is also oriented to effect change and function as a medium in which bioethicists often speak as advocates about how moral options should be framed as public policy positions in a democratic society.</span><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px; color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;"> </span></p>
June 29, 2012

The Stem Cell Hope and Our Indefinitely Delayed Future

Alice Park’s new book The Stem Cell Hope, convinced me it is time to retire, “Where is my jetpack!?” once and for all. After reading her new book, Park will have you screaming, “Where are my stem cells?” from every rooftop.

Jetpacks are a puerile toy that we all know would be impractical, deadly, [...]

September 1, 2010

McGee: Back on the Embryonic Stem Cell Merry-Go-Round, But Going In A New Direction

On the Bioethics Channel, Dr. Glenn McGee, the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics, stakes out his own position regarding the recent U.S.…

July 8, 2010

Puttin' On the Ritz...With the PCSBI

Writing live from the Ritz Carlton Washington DC at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI), here is what I have heard so far….…

View More Blog Entries

Published Articles (1)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 8 Issue 11 - Nov 2008

Federalism, Federalism Everywhere

News (2)

July 12, 2012 12:29 pm

U.S. Injected Gitmo Detainees With ‘Mind Altering’ Drugs (Wired News (blog))

Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given “mind altering drugs,” including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums. It’s a serious violation of medical ethics, made worse by the fact that the military continued to interrogate prisoners while they were doped on psychoactive chemicals.

May 16, 2012 9:35 am

The Obesity Epidemic - Two Policy Experts Speak Out (Forbes)

As part of our look into the obesity epidemic, we decided to ask two leading healthcare policy experts questions about the likelihood and potential impact of a tax on the obese and a tax on high-fat and high-sugar foods. This is the third article in a series I have written on obesity, with the previous two articles, A Fat Tax In America’s Future? and Cash As Weapon In The War Against Obesitybased on data from a proprietary survey about American’s views on obesity and what can be done about it.