Bio-Medical Ethics

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Rethinking a Christian Response to Suicide

I am continually amazed at the lack of sensitivity and pastoral grace that many Christians have regarding their response to a death by suicide. There was a time when Christians–Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant–generally considered suicide an “unpardonable sin.” For this reason when a person took their own life the family was left with the profound sense that their loved one was eternally condemned through this final act of (self) murder. Both officially, and unofficially, this view has been largely altered over the last fifty-plus years. (I still recall how I felt when I first came across this “historic” view through reading Pilgrim’s Progress, the popular classic written by the English minister John Bunyan.)

The advances we’ve made in understanding mental illness, and especially the issue of suicide, have been nothing short of a major paradigm shift in understanding both human behavior and moral accountability. While it is true that the “moral” issue remains the same in suicide (a person takes a life, which is morally wrong) it seems to me that the way Christians understand this moral issue has changed rather dramatically. This change, I submit, is

Statins: The Modern Wonder Drugs?

Like many of my readers, at least those who are over fifty, I take a statin drug every day. I take a very small dose (10mg) of Lipitor. Lipitor
I have read a great deal about these drugs, as should any consumer who puts anything into their body. I also have the benefit of a brother who is a physician and several other family members who are in medicine and research. Several years ago I had a simple heart scan that suggested one possible blockage problem. Heart_2
I went through a battery of tests with a cardiologist, just to be safe. The prognosis was that I had normal damage. My pipes have mild corrosion from aging, as the cardiologist put it.
That, by the way, does help you focus on your mortality and your real age when you are nearing 60 as I am.


By |January 15th, 2008|Categories: Bio-Medical Ethics|

Could Promising New Stem Cell Research End Culture War Aspect of Debate?

Stem Cell research may be on the verge of a whole new opportunity for advancement that could solve the ethical dilemma faced by harvesting stem cells from human embryos that requires the destruction of human life. New research published this month suggests that there may be an alternative to embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Stem cells can apparently be taken from Amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus, as well as from the placenta. These stem cells seem to share the many qualities of embryonic stem cells. If this is true then this new research could point to the end of the hugely controversial culture war over the role of embryonic stem cells.

The White House published a 67-page report on the current state of stem-cell science in order to back up these research developments and to support the President’s firm position against killing human embryos. Meanwhile the new Democratic Congressional majority threatens to force the issue again by a vote last week. The good news is that a veto-proof majority seems impossible.

I have to wonder if certain

By |January 19th, 2007|Categories: Bio-Medical Ethics|

What Kind of Stem Cells?

The stem cell debate is going to be even bigger in the 110th Congress. Democrats have promised to  overturn the president’s opposition to harvesting embryonic stem cells if possible. This whole issue amazes me, at least on one level. As an issue it is, in microcosm, a picture of our culture and its putting incredible hope in all medical and research processes that can be found to cure any and all problems. Promises are made that have little or no basis in facts and few have the ability to discern the differences.

First, we need to know what stem cells are in order to understand the issue. Stem cells are simply human cells that have no specialized function or structure and thus are believed to have incredible potential to develop into other kinds of cells in the human body. The ability of such cells to adapt and/or develop offers great promise medically. Medical researchers are trying to use stem cells to repair specific tissues and/or to grow human organs. Some positive benefits have already been reaped from using human stem cells. There

By |January 4th, 2007|Categories: Bio-Medical Ethics|

Life, Bio-Ethics and Our Present Political Climate

Two bio-ethical issues have recently been debated and decided at the federal level in an attempt to create a culture more favorable to human life. The first was the Senate bill to allow federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. As is widely known President Bush vetoed this bill, his first veto in nearly six years in office. Some rather consistently pro-life senators voted for this particular measure, including majority leader Bill Frist, himself a devoutly pro-life Christian physician. (Senator Frist’s dad was my late father’s personal physician in Nashville and thus our family has held highest regard for the Frist family for many years.) Those who favored this measure argued that embryonic stem-cells provide much potential for curing diseases like Parkinson’s, a disease that my father-in-law suffered from for more than a decade prior to his painful death in late 2004. For this reason I confess that I respond to the emotional arguments that surrounded this bill with some real life experience. At the same time I fear, like other social conservatives, that this bill was, in actuality, an ethical “Trojan horse.” It is

By |July 26th, 2006|Categories: Bio-Medical Ethics|

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