An Introduction to Bioethics

Paul Simon once sang that their are 50 ways to leave your lover—a practice I’m not endorsing—and today there are just as many ways to make a baby, almost. According to Joe Carter, in his weekly post on bioethics, there are at least thirty-ways to make a baby.  He writes,

Until the 1970s, all but one child ever born was the result of sexual intercourse; today, there are at least thirty-eight ways to make a baby. In an attempt to conquer infertility we’ve developed dozens of methods, a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms, to create a child: IVF, IUI, ICSI, DI, AI, ET, etc. 

I had no idea that there were and are so many ways to bring children into this world. Of course, these reproductive technologies may help many infertile couples to be parents, but they also create innumerable ethical difficulties. Carter continues,

The growing number of reproductive technologies has undoubtedly been a blessing to thousands of infertile couples. Yet the methods raise an equal number of ethical concerns.

A number of the reproductive methods and technologies violate God’s ideal for the family by involving a third party (i.e., egg or sperm donation, surrogacy). Other problems arise from the creation of “spare” embryos that will either be discarded or donated for “research.” The technology has also paved the way for new evils such as human cloning, the creation of “designer” babies and the individualistic eugenics of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Carter’s observations document the increasing complexity of our world as it concerns life, medicine, and technology. In his ERLC post, “How Christians Should Think About Bioethics,” he gives a two-part conceptual tool for grappling with the bioethical challenges that we may face.  First, he suggests that taking life (e.g., euthanasia, abortion, etc.), making life (e.g., reproductive technologies), and faking life (e.g., transhumanism, cloning, etc.) are the areas of greatest concern  And second, he gives a three-fold approach to bioethics that is worth considering and employing.

Citing John Kilner and C. Ben Mitchell, who will soon author Christian Bioethics in the B & H Studies in Christian Ethics series and who have already co-authored Does God Need Our Help? Cloning Assisted Suicide and Other ChallengesCarter lists a three-step approach to bioethics. According to Mitchell and Kilner, Christian bioethics must be (1) God-centered, (2) Reality-bound, and (3) Love-impelled. Only as we unite these three truths in this particular order—God first, his created world second, and love third—will we have a chance at thinking about these issues faithfully.

Let me encourage you to read the whole article and to check back next Thursday for his next installment. I will.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss