APPENDIX 2: BIO-ETHICAL ISSUES

© Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2016

Bioethics concerns ethical questions surrounding scientific/medical practices involving life, or, more specifically for our purposes, human life. [Bios = life]. Bioethics seeks to evaluate these practices and to reach a decision as to whether a practice is ethically right or ethically wrong. As with all ethical questions the conclusions reached depend largely on the starting point of the questioner – on the political, social and/or religious presuppositions already held.

A. TERMINOLOGY

Only a selected few of the more common controversial practices are listed in this Appendix. An extended list of practices coming under the heading of ‘bioethics’ can be found at www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioethics  .


Cloning: Creating an identical copy of the original.

Molecular cloning: taking a gene from one organism and putting it into another organism.

Cellular cloning: creating a population of cells from a single cell.

Human cloning: creating an identical copy of a living or previously living human, and/or, growing cloned tissue from a human being.

‘Therapeutic cloning’: the life of an embryonic human clone is terminated at an early stage and its cells harvested to create medicine or to be used in research.

Eugenics: The study and/or practice of improving the human gene pool. This was in part the motivation behind the ethnic cleansing practised in Nazi Germany. Included in this quest to improve/purify human genes are such practices as abortions because of genetic defects, ‘designer babies’, compulsory sterilization of ‘undesirable’ people to prevent from reproducing. [Note: the definition of what kinds of people are ‘undesirable’ varies.]

Gene therapy: The insertion of a gene into an individual’s cells and/or tissues in order to treat a disease, particularly a hereditary disease.

Organ donation: The donation of an organ from a living [in the case of kidneys] or dead human being to replace a defective organ in a living human being.

Stem cells: From Wikipedia: ‘Stem cells are primal undifferentiated cells which retain the ability to differentiate into other cell types. This ability allows them to act as a repair system for the body, replenishing other cells as long as the body is alive.’

Embryonic stem cells: stem cells from an embryo at an early point in its development [when it contains 50-150 cells]. At this point the embryo is called a ‘blastocyst’.

Cord blood stem cells: stem cells from the blood in the placenta and/or umbilical cord

Adult stem cells: Stem cells found in adult blood, bone marrow, skin and a variety of other organs in the body.

Embryonic stem cell research: Experimentation with stem cells from unwanted [left over from IVF programs] or artificially created embryos for medical research which has the goal of discovering ways to heal diseases and injuries.

Many of the issues listed above are related to the same question that confronted us when considering abortion – the question ‘When does human life begin?’ There is also an inter-relatedness between some of these issues. As you study these issues you will notice this over-lap.

B. AUSTRALIAN LAW

Because advances in medical sciences are proceeding at a rapid rate laws governing these areas is in a state of change. The two laws referred to below were passed in 2002 but subject to review in 2005, and are still subject to review as community attitudes change and science advances.

B.1 Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002
In 2002 the Federal Government passed the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002, to prohibit human cloning and other unacceptable practices associated with reproductive technology, and for related purposes. This act can be viewed in full at https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2008C00694 .

B.2 Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002
Also in 2002 the Federal Government passed an Act to regulate certain activities involving the use of human embryos, and for related purposes. It can be viewed here https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2014C00605 .

B.3 United Nations policy
On March 8 2005, the General Assembly adopted resolution 59/280, containing in its annex the text of the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning by a recorded vote of 84 to 34, with 37 abstentions.

This resolution:

‘Solemnly declares the following:
(a) Member States are called upon to adopt all measures necessary to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences;

(b) Member States are called upon to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life;

(c) Member States are further called upon to adopt the measures necessary to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity;

(d) Member States are called upon to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences;

(e) Member States are also called upon to adopt and implement without delay national legislation to bring into effect paragraphs (a) to (d) …’

Australia was one of the nations which voted in favour of the resolution. However the resolution is non-binding.


C. INDIVIDUAL ISSUES

Cloning

To study cloning, check out http://creation.com/search?q=cloning

Embryonic stem cell research

To study embryonic stem cell research check http://creation.com/search?q=stem+cell+research .

In facing the issue of embryonic stem cell research it is necessary to also study research and actual use of stem cells from other sources [adult stem cells, placental and cord blood]. To date there has been a lot of speculation and experimentation but no success in treating humans with embryonic stem cells, but there have already been medical successes with adult, placental and cord blood stem cells. In addition, embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of human embryos to harvest the stem cells for research; adult and placental and cord blood stem cell research is non-destructive of human life. In many cases adult stem cells are harvested from the patient on which they are subsequently used. Placental and cord blood is currently discarded as hospital waste.

Non-embryonic stem cells from various sources have successfully treated the following:

From bone marrow: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, Acute myeloid leukaemia, Chronic myeloid leukaemia, Multiple myeloma, Breast cancer, Ovarian cancer, Germ cell tumours.

From adult islet cells: Diabetes

From haematopoietic blood: Cancers of the blood

From peripheral blood: Cancers of the blood

From patient’s brain stem cells: Parkinson’s disease

From patient’s nasal tissue stem cells: Spinal injuries

From cord blood: Leukaemia Sickle cell anaemia Lymphomas and hematologic malignancies Genetic disorders

From patient’s neural stem cells: Parkinson’s disease.

[The above information was sourced from the websites of Loma Linda University and the Centre for Bioethics and Human Dignity.]

For a more extensive list of conditions that have been successfully treated with adult stem cells check this page - http://www.stemcellresearchfacts.org/treatment-list/

For an extended list of conditions successfully treated with cord blood stem cells check here - http://www.stemcellresearchnews.net/Diseases_Treated.aspx

Given that humans with these many conditions have been successfully treated with adult or cord blood stem cells, the deliberate destruction of human embryos to harvest embryonic stem cells for medical research appears not only to be unethical but also completely unwarranted.

Gene therapy

Gene therapy is an experimental treatment that seeks to cure health conditions caused by an inherited faulty gene, by replacing the faulty gene. You can find a explanation of gene therapy here: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/gene-therapy

Genetic engineering and eugenics

The Loma Linda University [Seven Day Adventist] on-line resources include this article about genetic engineering - http://religion.llu.edu/bioethics/academics/seventh-day-adventist-guidelines-genetic-engineering .

Related to genetic engineering is eugenics. Eugenics is what motivated Hitler’s purging Germany not just of Jews, but of any child or adult with physical or mental disabilities or even defects.

If you are curious about the direction eugenics is heading, check out this article below sourced in 2006 from an article by Deborah Marshall no longer available online. Note the sections in bold [bold added]. Some of the content from Professor Baume is still available at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=1153&page=1 .

‘… These were just some of the questions posed by the Chancellor of The Australian National University, Professor Peter Baume, AO, who recently delivered the 13th Concannon College Oration to students, staff and members of the public. Professor Baume is the Professor of Community Medicine and Head of the School of Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, the Director of Sydney Water, the Governor of the Foundation for Development Corporation and the consulting Editor of the Australian Health Review. He was created an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1992.

In his oration, The Human Genome - Ethical Aspects, Professor Baume discussed the ethical implications of the human genome project (a 15-year US Government-funded program to discover the sequence of every human gene by the end of the first decade of the 21st century) and what it would mean for our communities, country and planet.

"Scientists will understand better than they have ever done, diseases that come from a single gene, and multiple genes and they will have the capacities to alter the genetic make-up of people to remove troublesome genes,'' he said.

But with that knowledge also comes responsibility, and an ethical framework must be in place by the time scientists are technologically ready, Professor Baume argued.

He queried whether we would only be allowed to be born if our genome was acceptable and if so, who would make that decision. "A couple may be asked or required to have the genome cleared first. This might be done indirectly by their genomes or more directly by checking the genome of each foetus,'' he said. He asked the following sobering questions, particularly of interest to prospective parents: Will abortion of all other foetuses become the norm?

Will testing of all newborn babies for genetic predispositions to disease become expected? Will post-natal correction of genetic defects or predispositions become the norm? Will these processes be voluntary or compulsory or coercive? And of interest to us all: Will reproduction be the same or will it become a laboratory matter? "The question here is whether sex will only be for pleasure or whether it will retain any reproductive function. We could even reach the situation where we match desirable strands of DNA to make a new being and do away with humans except for the provision of the raw materials."

He raised concerns that gene therapy would be expensive and available only to the wealthy, creating a further divide between the "haves" and the "have nots". "Will gene therapy be included in some national system of underwriting, and if it is so included, will subsidy be for all or only for some diseases?'' he asked. "Scientists will not be put off by laws that stand in their way if the technical know-how is available. It is not just a question for religious advisers, learned as they may be. It is a question for each one of us, especially if we hope to have children ourselves, and particularly because we are citizens.

In conclusion, Professor Baume urged the audience as part of the wider community to help design systems which would encourage medical practitioners, "often trained in a narrow and classical paradigm", to turn to people trained in social sciences and moral philosophy for help in this and related matters.’

There are some truly frightening possibilities identified in this article. Note particularly the last bold statement: ‘Scientists will not be put off by laws that stand in their way if the technical know-how is available.’ This statement is relevant to all sanctity of life issues.

D. PERSONAL POSITION
Define your personal position on [1] human cloning and [2] embryonic stem cell research. The current time is a critical one if the concept of the sanctity of human life and even the definition of human life are to be preserved. Every Christian can either make his/her voice heard on these issues or remain silent and let the choices of those who rob humans of their biblical dignity prevail and dictate the path of our nation.