GCSE Philosophy and Ethics (OCR): Religion and Medical Ethics

These cards detail the Medical Ethics unit for the OCR Religious Studies B (christianity) specification. Credit to the textbook that goes with this specification

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  • Created by: Becky_
  • Created on: 12-04-12 18:02

Attitudes To Abortion

Abortion: Deliberate termination of pregancy by removal and destruction of the foetus. In the UK, the foetus has to be no more than 24 weeks old for abortion to be done.

  • The Sanctity of Life is linked to Abortion. This is the belief that life is sacred or holy and humans do not have the right to take it away.
  • Pro-choice is where people support the rights of the woman to choose whether to end a pregnancy or not, Pro-life supports the rights of the baby
  • People argue as to where human life starts: Roman Catholics believe in ensoulment, the belief that foetus receives it soul at the moment of conception. Scientists such as Donald Peebles believe that life starts at 12 weeks.

-- Some Christians believe in Ensoulment (as mentioned above); 'Before I formed you, I knew you' (Jeremiah 1:5), 'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb' (Psalm 139:13). CofE and RCC believe that abortion is a great moral evil. Roman Catholics permit abortion if it's the result of saving the life of the mother but an abortion results even though it was unintended, for example. (a.k.a. 'Doctrine of Double Effect')

--CofE teaches that abortion is only acceptable if it the pregnancy is result of ****, for example (a.k.a. Lesser of Two Evils)

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Christian Attitudes Towards Fertility Treatment, C

Fertility Treatment: treatment given to help people who want babies but cannot have them, possibly because the man doesn't produce healthy sperm or the woman cannot produce eggs

  • Roman Catholics disagree with fertility treatment as they believe that it interferes with God's plan. Other Christians believe that it's wrong to use sperm or eggs from a donor as it brings a third person into the relationship, however some believe that medical help should be given to those who want children
  • Other Christians are concerned with what happens to spare embryos in IVF (in vitro fertilisation). Christians view cloning as 'playing God' as it's going against the Sanctity of Life (the belief that life is sacred)

Embryo Research: where embryos are studied and used to find ways of curing and preventing illness

Anglicans support it up to 14 days, other Christians think it's acceptable because this way some good comes out of abortions

Roman Catholics oppose all embryo research and some Christians believe that the embryo can't give consent

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Attitudes to Euthanasia & Suicide

Euthanasia: when someone is helped to die without pain before they would have died naturally (a.k.a 'mercy killing' = 'good or gentle death')

  • Voluntary, where the person asks someone else to help them. Or involuntary, where someone else decides that the person's life should end (e.g. if they're in a coma that they won't come out of)
  • Passive Euthanasia: where the patient requests that treatment should be stopped. Euthanasia is illegal in the UK but legal elsewhere

--Most Christians believe that only God gives life and only God can decide when a life should be ended. They believe that euthanasia or suicide is a sin; 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away' (Job 1:21), 'I kill and I make alive' (Deuteronomy 32:39). Also, most Christians do not differentiate between the different types of Euthanasia as it is still killing

--Some Christians such as Dame Cicely Saunders who created Hospices (where terminally ill patients go to be looked after before they die) believe in Palliative Care (where terminally ill patients keep pain under control)

Suicide: when someone ends their own life (a.k.a 'self-murder')

Roman Catholics believe it's a sin. Most Christians today are more compassionate e.g. the Samaritans was set up by a Christians vicar for those who are depressed

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Do Animals Have Rights?

Christians believe in the idea of dominion, where God gave humans control over all other living things; ‘rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky’ (Genesis 1:26).  They also believe that animals do not have souls and so cannot have the same relationship with God as humans.

However, the idea of Stewardship is the belief that God gave humans the responsibility to care for and respect the Earth, rather than rule over it.

  • In Matthew 10:31, Jesus stressed that humans ‘are worth much more than sparrows’

Christians Beliefs about Animal Testing

  • Christians recognise that humans can benefit from experiments on animals (e.g. development of dialysis machines, immunosuppressant drugs, tuberculosis vaccines) so animal testing is acceptable in this case
  • They stress that unecessary suffering must be avoided (this is not showing stewardship as this is a failure of their responsibility)
  • Causing pain to animals does not abide with Jesus' teachings
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Quote Bank for Medical Ethics

 'Before I formed you, I knew you' (Jeremiah 1:5)

'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb' (Psalm 139:13)

'Life is God’s gift and we do not have the right to a child' - Pope Pius

'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away' (Job 1:21)

'I kill and I make alive' (Deuteronomy 32:39)

'Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky’ (Genesis 1:28)

'Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it' (Genesis 1:26)

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Lucy Jane

This is brilliant, really helped me, thank you


Glad to help! :)

Rhys B-M

really good thanks :)

alan leggett

Really helping me, I have my re-sit on Tuesday & this is wonderful!


Thanks, this will be great for when I do my exam ! :)

Hummi C

Awesome, thank you so much :D


Been revising from bits and bobs found all over; this has been great in drawing everything together in my mind. The quotes are extremely helpful too.


Great help,thank you


Thank you!

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