Is bioethics worthwhile? Is it an activity to which Christian scholars should devote their professional activity and to which Christian health care professionals should pay heed? Or, rather, is bioethics such a hopelessly corrupt field that our only appropriate response is to recoil from it in disgust and opposition?
By any method of reckoning, we have entered an age of nearly unbridled biotechnological expansion. Futurists almost universally claim that the 21st century will be what Jeremy Rifkin has called "The Biotech Century." Richard Oliver, professor of business management at Vanderbilt University, has announced that "The Bioterials Age will complete the triumph of economics over politics, which was begun in the Information Age.
The British Court of Appeals has now ruled that, despite their parents' wishes to the contrary, physicians may surgically separate Mary from her twin, Jodie. Some Christian ethicists, like Dennis Hollinger, consider this a wise but tragic choice concluding, apparently, that we have a moral duty to save Jodie, even at Mary's expense.
The birth of Siamese twins in Manchester England on August 8 has generated significant moral and legal debate around the world. Conjoined twins occur in approximately one of 200,000 live births and can often live fairly normal lives whether they remain in a conjoined state or are surgically separated. In this case, however, the girls are joined at the lower abdomen and share a heart and lungs.
How are we to evaluate the Western tradition of autonomy from the perspective of Scripture? What resources can the Christian theological tradition bring to help temper the corrosive effects of autonomy and individualism today?
The development of an understanding of bioethics which is rooted in the health care professions and set within the context of Christian faith will neither answer all our current problems nor readily commend itself to the secularists who largely adorn the bioethics academy. But it will achieve two vital results. First, it will enable those many physicians, nurses, administrators, and ethicists who work self-consciously within the context of their Christian faith to be freed from the notion that they must do secular bioethics.