Unit 3 – Matters of Life (Medical Ethics)
Religion and Fertility Treatment
- Fertility treatment can help those that cannot have children have children.
- It can be done through IVF (in vitro fertilisation) where the sperm and egg are put together outside the womb (in a laboratory).
- AID – artificial insemination by donor – where sperm is placed on the neck of the womb. (Some religious believers see this as adultery as the donor is not married to the mother).
- AIH – artificial insemination by husband – as above, but by a husband and not a donor.
- Donated eggs – fertile women can donate eggs to infertile couples. They use the man’s sperm, the donated egg and place the fertilised egg in the woman’s womb.(Some religious believers dislike this as a third person is involved who is not married to the couple).
- Surrogacy – where a woman has a baby for another couple. The fertilised egg or embryo is taken from the couple and placed in the surrogate woman’s womb. (Some religions are again uneasy with the third person being involved).
Christian beliefs against fertility treatment
- It’s playing God. Only He can give life.
- The Bible says God ‘closed Hannah’s womb’ (1 Samuel). This suggests infertility is God’s will.
- AID, donated eggs and surrogate all involved a third or unmarried person. This could be seen as ‘adultery’. The 10 Commandments state, Thou shall not commit adultery’.
- IVF can be seen as unnatural and as playing God.
- The Catholic Church is against IVF as spare embryos are destroyed in the process. The embryos are seen as life.
- Many Christians believe in ‘ensoulment’, which means the soul enters the cells at conception. Thus any medical fertility treatment that destroys of damages embryos is sinful, even murder, ‘Thou shall not kill’.
Christian arguments for fertility treatment
- Jesus healed the sick. Perhaps fertility treatment can be seen as healing and would be encouraged by Jesus.
- God gave us the knowledge to create fertility treatments. Therefore, we should use that knowledge for good reasons.
- Jesus performed miracles and, perhaps, fertility treatments can be seen as modern miracles.
- Allowing couples to have children is a loving thing to do. Perhaps the idea of ‘love your neighbour’ means we should help childless couples have children if that’s what they really want.
- Christianity sees loving families as really important. If fertility treatment creates more loving families, it is a good thing.
Islam and fertility treatment
- Islam teaches that Allah has a plan for everyone and that infertility may be part of that plan.
- Infertility is ‘playing God (Allah)’ and interfering in His plan.
- Muslims, like many Christians, would be concerned that AID and surrogate mothers involve a third unmarried person and this is adultery.
- Many Muslims believe that only the woman who actually gives birth can be considered the actual mother; this rules out a surrogate.
- However, many Muslims say that if Allah has given us the medical knowledge to overcome infertility, than it is His plan and we should use it.
- Also, Muslims believe that Allah breathes life into the foetus at 120 days. So there is no issue with destroying embryos during IVF. Unlike some Christian views.
- Muslims are pro-family. Perhaps creating loving Muslim families is a good thing.
Buddhism and fertility treatment
- Buddhism sees the first precept as not to harm life. Buddhists may have issues with embryos being destroyed.
- However, fertility treatment can make people happy and lead to good karma for the doctor.
- The doctor shows metta (loving kindness) by helping the infertile couple.
- As long as you have ‘Right Intention’, it may be OK to use fertility treatment.
Transplants and religion
- Christianity sees organ transplants as saving lives, which is a good thing.
- Christianity sees life as ‘sacred’ and Christians believe in the ‘sanctity of Life’, which means that all life is Holy and special. It should be saved.
- Jesus healed the sick. Transplants do the same and Jesus would approve.
- Some may argue that transplant surgery is a modern miracle and God-given.
- God gave doctors the knowledge to carry out transplants. This should be used.
- Man is created in ‘God’s image’. You are saving this image with transplants. Also, the Bible says the ‘body is a temple of the Holt Spirit’, which is protected by transplants.
- Some individual Christians may have reservations about how their bodies are used and whether those who receive them may sin.
Islam and transplants
- Most Muslims are in favour of transplants.
- The Muslim Council of Britain advises Muslims to carry UK Donor Cards, which means doctors can use their bodies if there is an accident.
- Allah gave doctors the knowledge and intelligence to transplant organs.
- It saves a life. Life is also sacred to Muslims as it was created by Allah.
- However, some Muslims are uneasy with dead bodies being cut up. A body should be buried, intact, as soon as possible, as the body will rise again at Judgement Day when Allah will send the deceased to Paradise or Hell. Importantly, the body must be in tact. If it has been cut up, this will be evident.
- A minority of Christians and Muslims may see transplants as playing God and interfering with God’s plans.
- Most Muslims see transplants of the ‘lesser of two evils’ when it comes to Judgement Day. Saving a life is far more important.
Buddhism and Transplants
- You are creating good karma by saving a life.
- As long as you do not hurt anyone (first precept), transplants are OK.
- You are showing metta – loving kindness by helping someone.
- If you save a life, you have ‘Right Intention’, which is good.
- Saving lives leads to good rebirths.
- All major religions are for blood transfusions. For Christians, Muslims and Buddhists the same arguments are used as were used for transplants.
- However, Jehovah Witnesses are against blood transfusions.
- Jehovah Witnesses believe the Bible says blood transfusions are wrong. For example, Leviticus says that ‘the life of a creature is in the blood’. Therefore, a transfusion is taking someone else’s blood.
Genetic Engineering and Cloning
- Genetic engineering is when human, animal or plant genes (DNA) are altered in order create a different outcome from reproduction. An example would be the altering of DNA in plants to make them more resistant to certain diseases.
- There are different types of genetic engineering. For the exam you need to familiar with designer babies, saviour siblings and therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
- Designer babies are babies where a baby’s genes can be altered to give them certain characteristics, such as blue eyes or higher IQs. The technology exists and involves changing certain genes before an embryo is conceived or develops. It is illegal to ‘design’ babies in the UK unless for medical reasons. Even medical reasons are strictly controlled.
- Saviour Siblings are babies genetically altered to provide bone marrow or other tissues/organs for a sick sibling. This issue was the theme of the film My Sisters Keeper – the title is a play on the Bible’s ‘my brother’s keeper’. Some say this is good as it saves lives, others are concerned the sibling will feel used. It is legal in the UK, but there are limits on what can be done.
- Cloning is an identical copy of another organism. Science Fiction likes to use cloning, for example, Star Wars and ‘The Island’. However, scientists have cloned plants and animals. It is illegal to clone a human, but the potential technology exists.
- Therapeutic cloning is legal, but strictly controlled. This means scientists can use stem cells etc to create brain cells or skin, for example. It is considered medicine. Reproductive cloning would result in creating a whole new human. This remains completely illegal.
- Many Christians disagree with genetic engineering as it is playing God. Only God can create, give and take away life, which is sacred (Sanctity if Life). Other Christians may be uneasy with what we use genetic engineering for – are we not happy with God’s creation, could therapeutic cloning lead to reproductive cloning and evil armies!
- Christians may agree with medical therapeutic cloning as Jesus healed the sick and cured the blind. It is also loving and kind. They may also accept saviour siblings as saving lives, which are sacred.
- Do we have a ‘right’ to mess with nature, or is it our responsibility to improve the quality of life for others?
- Buddhists are only OK with cloning for therapeutic reasons. It creates good karma by helping others.
- Doctors show metta in cloning things to save lives.
- However, the doctor must show the ‘Right Intention’.
- The above would lead to a good rebirth.
- Some Buddhists would object to any cloning that harms life (first precept).
- Destroying embryos may break the first precept.
- Embryology is the science of studying embryos.
- Often spare embryos are thrown away.
- Roman Catholics would be uneasy with the use of spare embryos in embryology. Embryos that are destroyed or wasted already have a soul (ensoulment at conception). This goes against ‘Thou shall not kill’.
- This might also go against the First Buddhist Precept – not to harm living things.
- However, using it for the ‘Right Intention’ (help people/study illnesses) may lead to good karma and a good rebirth etc…