by William E. Cripe, Sr.
Bill Cripe is senior pastor at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Waterville, Maine. He maintains ASCP certification as a registered medical technologist and has been AIIA’s Resource Associate for Social and Ethical Issues since April, 2000.
Is prenatal testing wrong?
Amniocentesis, ultrasound technology, and even heart rate monitoring all fall under this broad question. The easy answer is, “No, not all.” But one defining question must first be answered: “What will be the impact on the ’embryonic human’ with the information obtained from testing? Will it be used to preserve or better the quality of life of the ’embryonic human’ or will it be used to diminish or destroy it?” Answer that and you have a satisfactory guide for prenatal testing. The words of Gilbert Meilander of Valparaiso, who serves on the President’s Council of Bioethics, are sobering: “Disease avoidance through prenatal genetic diagnosis is only a decision away from trait desire.”
Is prenatal surgery to correct congenital defects wrong?
Compare surgery with a similar purpose in a ‘real’ person, because this is a ‘real’ person – surgery being intended to enhance, not diminish, life.
Is prenatal genetic engineering to combat disease or determine baby features okay?
Therapeutic genetic engineering is currently extremely experimental on even postnatal subjects, with scant and questionable results. Although scientists at CBHD* believe that “to relieve suffering is to walk in Jesus’ footsteps,” it doesn’t seem that Jesus was too concerned whether a person had a thick, full head of hair or a bald head. Abilities can be used wisely or foolishly.
Is the harvesting of eggs from one woman to be used for egg donation to another (infertile) woman wrong?
Leon Kaas, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, notes that “certain elements stand out as matters of human worth that are deserving of our respect, [including] the humanity of the procreative process and the special human attachments it both manifests and generates, the special procreative power of [a] woman and human pregnancy, the singular relationships of parents to child and of child to parents [which is] essential to the identity of each, the special respect owed to nascent human life, and even -if to a somewhat lesser degree- to egg and sperm, in view of their standing as the potential seeds of a new child and a new human generation.”
See also our reply to the first two questions in this 2-part series (Nov 05 issue).
Would parthenogenesis (manipulating a woman’s egg to produce a one-parent pregnancy) be wrong?
The ethical breaches here are expansive. A child having one parent in a true biological sense, or even a child being it’s own parent, are among the head-spinning examples of what happens when technological knowledge surpasses moral wisdom. The answer is “Yes – it is wrong.”
Would developing chimeras (humans with animal genes useful as research models) be okay? Scientists at the Shanghai Medical University fused human cells with rabbit eggs over two years ago. But chimeric genetics is more than just humans possessing animal genes. Through chimeric genetics it is theoretically possible to create a male/female hybrid, or even a human with the limbs of a lion. Scientists at Stanford plan (or maybe already have created) a mouse with a human brain under the guise that the more humanlike an animal is, the better the research subject it makes. Remember, chimera is the name of a monster from Greek mythology. Do we really have to ask if this is wrong? Unfortunately we do.
Issues raised by advances in medical technology stretch our moral maturity. Here are three truths for framing current and future considerations:
1) The push for embryonic stem cell research is far more political than scientific. To date, it’s adult stem cells that have shown the real promise.
2) Genes alone are not all-determinative. Identical twins are technically clones but still not exactly identical.
3) For moral people the ability to do certain things does not necessarily imply permission to perform them.
Without the God of wisdom we will surely become like those at the tower of Babel whose ability to do wondrous things, while ignoring the will of God, became repugnant to God.
Sources & Resources
CBHD.org – Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity *
Donoharm.org Cloninginformation.org Humanfuture.org
Basic Questions on Reproductive Technologies, ©1998 Kregel
Cutting-Edge Bioethics; Kilner et al; ©2002 Eerdmans
Basic Questions on Genetics, Stem Cell Research and Cloning, ©1998 Kregel