Friday, January 15, 2016

The Ethics Dialogue

So, many times we tend to take the Christian ethical perspective for granted. After all, we live in a nominal Christianity-soaked atmosphere, where many individuals are peddling Christian-flavoured perspectives, thoughts, and other mice, moral "Christianities".

One of the cool things about being a medical student is seeing where scientific naturalism/humanism and Christianity stand at odds and there are few places where this is near as evident as in ethics, especially medical ethics.

Today, let us consider inherited congenital chronic disorders (think ALD, Cystic Fibrosis, Down's Syndrome, etc).

Many such disorders once had an average life expectancy barely into childhood. Here lies the first conflict. A naturalistic and/or humanistic philosophy might say that we should let natural selection run its course. After all, they would probably not contribute much to the human population. From a Christian perspective, we see a couple strong, influencing factors, revolving around the posits that life is a special creation of God, that man is created in the image of God, and that human life is valuable to God. From this position, then, it makes ethical sense to seek preservation and prolonging of life, regardless of genetic anomaly.

Modern medicine, now, has enabled patients with an inherited congenital disorder to live longer lives, many with an average lifespan well into an adulthood. That, of course, prompts another, newer ethical question: Many such patients reaching adulthood may be wondering about and wanting to have children - is it morally or ethically right for an individual with an inherited congenital disease to conceive children? Similarly, is it moral or ethical to disallow such an individual to conceive? Lastly, what are the moral and ethical costs associated with adoption? Given the shorter lifespan and constant, present treatment and expenses, should adoption agencies consider such a patient as a potential parent for adoption?

So, those are a ton of questions to ponder. I can give the cold, hard, far absolute scientific naturalist/humanistic response to the first couple questions. The answer would be a flat "No". The answer would even be no for two carriers to marry and conceive children, because they run the risk of perpetuating undesirable genetic traits in the gene pool. As for the adoption questions, those are a grey area not immediately affected by natural selection and would probably be answered with a "Yes".

Note that most scientists will not lie in this far camp, more likely falling in a more compassionate position. Many may be familiar with the term "eugenics". Eugenics was an application of genetics in population medicine in an effort to purify the human gene pool. That is a historical application of this stance on ethics.

From a Christian perspective, should we allow these individuals to conceive children? I would say that question is not our jurisdiction. We humans do not have the right to determine whether an individual should exist, given that God is the one who decides whether an individual will exist in the first place.

To cease deferring the question, though, I would say the Christian has an ethical and moral obligation to inform a patient of the risks inherent to his or her children, but has no right to tell him or her not to have children. Instead, the patient has full autonomy and the physician is providing more background for a fully-informed decision. Adoption is definitely a viable option, I think, with the only question being the ability of the prospective parents to emotionally, physically, and financially support and care for a child.

These type of ethical dilemmas are entertaining to ponder, particularly the far absolutes. It is of great value that we take time to consider what is right and wrong and the rationales therefore, as they provide us great insight into our own values as well as the values of others.

If you, as the reader have any other perspective, have a question, or feel that I have missed an important point, please let me know.