Religious Attitudes to Matters of Life (Medical Ethics)

GCSE Religious Attitudes to Matters of Life (Medical Ethics)

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  • Created by: Mel
  • Created on: 21-05-12 10:14

Fertility Treatment

Fertility treatment is medical help enabling people to have children.

AID (Artificial Insemination by Donor) - A mother having her eggs fertilized by sperm which has been donated by another man

AIH (Artificial Insemination by Husband) - A mother's eggs are fertilized using her husband's sperm

IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) - When an ovum is withdrawn from the woman and fertilized with a man's semen outside of the body, under laboratory conditions

Surrogacy - When a woman becomes pregnant for someone else

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Primary infertility - Couple have never achieved a pregnancy

Second infertility - Couple have conceived in the past but are having difficulties conceiving again

Male infertility - Usually caused by sperm disorders

Female infertility - Stems from problems with ovulation, egg transport, fertilization, egg implantation and endometriosis

Genesis story of Abraham (c. 1800 BC) - Being 'Barren' was traditionally seen as a woman's problem. The inability to continue the family line was a matter of deep sorrow. God, as a sovereign of life, is seen as the one 'who opens the womb'. Usually the infertility of a couple is a prelude to God's blessing them with a 'promised child' (cf. Elizabeth).

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Fertility Treatment - Agreements and Differences a

All Christians agree that certain fertility treatments are perfectly acceptable in the context of a loving marriage - Fallopian tube recanalization, drugs to help ovulation, dietary advice.

In other words, anything that 'helps' rather than 'replaces' the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love. IVF separates the procreative aspect from the unitive aspect.

"At this earliest stage of their existence, embryos do not have the moral value of persons." - Church of England viewpoint

"There is the inseparable connection, established by God between the unitive and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage pact." - Catholic church viewpoint

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IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is a procedure in which eggs are removed from a woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg is then replaced into the women's uterus.

Arguments For IVF

  • Couples should have the right to try for children, humans are created with the ability to reproduce and it is because of illnesses and medical problems that they cannot, so this should be overcome
  • Infertility is like an illness, it causes sadness so couples should receive medical help
  • Jesus was a healer and healed people to relieve them of their suffering, Christian love means showing people compassion and helping them
  • If no embryos are destroyed then there is nothing wrong, there is no killing
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IVF (cont.)

Arguments Against IVF

  • New life should come only from natural love making and not from scientific processes, the Bible tells us in Genesis that new life should come from the coming together of husband and wife without involving docts and scientists, this undermines Christian marriage
  • There are many children that wait to be adopted, people who can't have children naturally could adopt those who don't have loving parents of their own
  • IVF involves the destruction of human life, stored frozen embryos that are not used and additional implanted embryos that are not required, this is seen as killing
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Genetic Engineering

Genetic Engineering is changing or destroying parts of humans genetic structure in the embryonic stages of life. 

Embryo Screening is when embryos are tested for genetically inherited diseases so they don't get passed on. An embryo is a fertilized ovum at about 12-14 days when implanted in the womb.

Arguments For Genetic Engineering

  • It creates new kinds of crops that could feed many people
  • Able to replace lost loved ones
  • New range of medical treatment for incurable diseases

Arguments Against Genetic Engineering

  • All humans are created in God's image 
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Designer Babies

Designer babies are babies with gender and characteristics chosen by their parents, which is currently illegal.

Arguments For Designer Babies

  • It ensures the babies are healthy 
  • Helps suffering parents who keep having children that die at very early stages

Arguments Against Designer Babies

  • Destruction of embryos which don't have the features wanted, life begins at conception and is God-given therefore all life is sacred 
  • Encourages the search for a perfect child, all life should be accepted and loved 
  • Children are seen as a gift from God, not an item to be purchased 
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Surrogacy is a form of fertility treatment in which a woman's egg is fertilised artificially by another woman's partner or an embryo from another couple is created through IVF and then implanted into the 'host' woman. The woman carries the baby throughout pregnancy and gives it to the other couple after birth. 

Arguments For Surrogacy

  • People who can't have a child of their own should be given the chance to have a child

Arguments Against Surrogacy

  • It is seen as playing God
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Cloning is the Scientific method by which animals or plants can be created which have exactly the same genetic make up as the original, because the DNA of the original is used.

Arguments For Cloning

  • Reproductive cloning could allow parents of a child who has died to seek redress for their loss

Arguments Against Cloning

  • Every human being is individual
  • Every human being is made in God's image
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Saviour Siblings

Saviour Sibling is a child conceived by IVF with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to save the life of an incurably ill sibling through the use of the cord blood.

Arguments For Saviour Sibling

  • Jesus brought healing into the world and so should we
  • Parents can have more than one child for many reasons, this child can also save another life
  • It is no different from other kinds of blood/organ donation

Arguments Against Saviour Sibling

  • Many other embryos are destroyed during the process
  • We do not value the life only for what it can do for another
  • The saviour sibling can be emotionally damaged
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Embryo Experimentation

Embryo Experimentation is the research of infertility, diseases and causes of miscarriage. Spare embryos from IVF are used but after 14 days the embryo must be destroyed.

Hybrid Embryos are a mixture of both human and animal tissue, placing human DNA in animal cells. They are grown in a laboratory and then harvested for stem cells. The law doesn't allow hybrids to be grown into human beings.

Arguments For Embryo Experimentation

  • Medical cures could be found to help those suffering; imitating Jesus helping and curing
  • When nature goes wrong it should be corrected using knowledge God has given us

Arguments Against Embryo Experimentation

  • It is seen as playing God
  • Some believe that life begins at conception and is sacred because it is God-given, embryos have lives and so they should be respected
  • Innocent embryo life killed, breaking the commandment, "Thou shall not kill"
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Genesis Story of Abraham (c. 1800 BC)

Abraham and Sarah could not have children. Being 'barren' was traditionall seen as a woman's problem. The inability to continue the family line was a matter of deep sorrow. God, as sovereign over life, is seen as the one 'who opens the womb'.

Usually the infertility of a couple is a prelude to God's blessing them with a 'promised child' (cf. Elizabeth).

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Sovereignty Stewardship, Sanctity Of Life, Primary, Secondary Infertility, Therapeutic Reproductive, God's Image, Saviour Sibling, Unitive Procreative

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Example Question and Answers

‘Religious believers should support medical experiments on humans.’

What do you think? Explain your opinion.

1. Since religions like Christianity take a sanctity of life view of a person, I think religious believers could not support indiscriminate experimentation on humans. Experiments would have to be directed to the person’s good (as in a clinical trial) and with informed consent. Some Christians might use the Great Commandment to justify human embryo experimentation to create, for example, a saviour sibling for a sick person already born. However, I do not think this is the right application of the commandment, as it would really meant that every child should be brought into the world for its own sake.

2. I agree. Catholic Christians distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary treatments. The latter involve risk, suggesting the need for medical experiments. However, they would argue that these experiments should be conducted with informed consent, as a person is made in God’s image and should not be treated like a laboratory animal. If one is terminally ill, being part of a clinical trial may be a way of serving others (even if it does not save you), showing agape concern for them. If religious believers have a sanctity of life view, they should, in my view, reject experimentation on embryos.

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