Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

Excerpt

The pace of medical advance in our world is so rapid that we may easily forget just how recent is the growth of bioethics as a distinct area of concern. In the minds of our children organ donation and transplantation have become facts of life; yet the first successful kidney transplant took place in 1954 and the first heart transplant as recently as 1967. Our children may assume that a pregnant woman should have the health of her fetus screened in utero, should know before birth whether her child is male or female, and should consider abortion for any of a number of reasons; yet, amniocentesis was first performed in 1966, and the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down only thirty years ago. We may assume that it is good for us to draw up advance directives about how we want to be treated if we become unconscious or otherwise incompetent, but the first living will law in this country (in the state of California) was passed in 1976. Many people simply assume that feeding tubes should be withdrawn from permanently unconscious patients; yet that step was not even seriously considered by the Quinlan family in 1976 when they went to court seeking to gain control over the medical care given their daughter Karen.

Something that might be called [medical ethics] has, of course, been present for a long time in the Western world. The Hippocratic Oath probably dates from the fourth century b.c., and physicians — . . .

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