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This study presents health care ethics as an instrumental element in the practice of medicine. In this regard, the contribution by religious bodies, particularly the Catholic Church, cannot be underscored. However, the conservative and inflexible ethical opinions on various subjects by the Catholic Church have resulted in conflicts between the cathedral and policymakers. One such controversial subject is the issue of abortion. Consequently, this study tries to investigate the role of the Catholic Church with respect to its contribution to biomedical ethics, including a highlight of how its opinions clash with those of policymakers and scientists. Among the various elements being scrutinized include the reasons why the church holds its firm position on abortion, the effect of abortion on human dignity, which the church is trying to protect, and the consequences that the world may face after ignoring its (church) recommendations. The article supports the church’s stand on illegalizing abortion since the act infringes on human dignity and life. However, the paper also prompts the need to legalize abortion on medical grounds, such as when the life of the mother is at risk.
Medical ethics refers to a set of principles and rules that govern the conduct of health professionals. The principles are formulated by the government in consultation with medical experts and other relevant bodies. In the past, the church played no role in the formulation of medical ethics. In other words, governments enacted the ethical code without involving religious players. However, as time went by, they realized the need to include the church in formulating bioethics to make health delivery effective. The Catholic Church is the commonly consulted body apparently due to its conservative nature regarding ethics (Hanson 67).
Since the establishment of bioethics, medical principles have evolved based on the contributions made by the stakeholders involved in their formulation. The entry of the church into the business of ethics has specifically given a different shape to medical values. One of the controversies that the church has created regarding medical ethics concerns the issue of abortion. Generally, abortion is illegal in most countries across the world since it infringes on the right to life for the unborn child. However, in certain situations, abortion may be ethically conducted to free the mother from life-threatening danger. This decision goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church, which does not approve of any form of abortion, irrespective of the motive. This paper explores the medical ethics, which regulates the issue of abortion with reference to the Catholic Church.
Why the Catholic Church Holds its Position
The church condemns all forms of abortion, regardless of the motive of the action. In some cases, medical principles conflict with the church regarding the issue of abortion. On the one hand, doctors argue that it would be justifiable to effect abortion on a mother whose pregnancy is a threat to her life. Additionally, there are controversies regarding the justification of an abortion on the grounds that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (Dobbelaere and Pérez-Agote 54). Guided by general ethical principles such as benevolence and patient autonomy, a physician would be tempted to conduct an abortion based on the aforementioned situations. However, the church condemns such abortion on the grounds that the move violates the right to life.
One of the reasons why the church is against abortion is that it goes against the right to life, which is guaranteed by God. Generally, the Catholic Church emphasizes the need to respect the life of all individuals, irrespective of their age, gender, or marital status. According to the church, no one is allowed to take the life of another human being for whatever reason (Schlesinger 51). God is the giver of life. He is the only one who has the power to rightfully take a person’s life. In this regard, an unborn child is viewed as a living person, just like any other human being (Kuhse and Singer 103). Ending a person’s life for any reason amounts to the violation of the principle of respect for life, which is immoral and unjustifiable.
The other reason why the church is against the legalization of abortion for mothers whose lives are threatened by pregnancy or whose expectancy resulted from rape is that such substantiation would attract many cases of unjustifiable abortion. In an unregulated abortion environment, prospective mothers would collude with physicians to perform unwarrantable abortions on the grounds that the pregnancy is a threat to the mothers’ lives (Hanson 34). This situation would, in turn, result in an increase in the number of deaths for unborn babies and hence heightened cases of violation of the right to live.
Effect on the Dignity of the Human Person
The decision by the Catholic Church to condemn any form of abortion is motivated by the need to protect human dignity. Every person around the globe has a right to live. No one should take the life of any individual on whatever grounds. Scientifically, life commences once a woman conceives and continues until when the person dies. Therefore, the unborn child is a living being who has equal rights, just like other human beings (Dobbelaere and Pérez-Agote 54). Taking his or her life at any stage of the pregnancy is a violation of human dignity.
However, as much as the church protects the dignity of the unborn, it fails to consider the poise of the mother. As noted previously in this paper, the church overlooks the life of the mother who may be seeking an abortion on the grounds that the unborn child is a threat to her life. Medically, some forms of pregnancy result in complications to the mother. They may even precipitate death. Based on the utilitarianism theory of ethics, a person is advised to adopt the course of action, which maximizes positive outcomes (De Lange 9). Based on the theory, a physician would consider conducting an abortion to save the life of the mother. Such a decision would be justified since it maximizes the welfare of the mother who may be having other dependents. However, the church may not allow such an abortion since it may result in poor health and even the death of the concerned mother.
Who is the Church Trying to Protect?
Based on the arguments presented by the church, it is evident that the motive behind the church’s position on abortion is to protect the interests of the unborn child. The church condemns any form of abortion, regardless of the justifications presented either by the mother or the medical personnel. In some cases, the mother may be in a situation in which she cannot successfully deliver a child without losing her life. However, physicians may consider conducting an abortion to save the life of the mother. The church does not approve of such abortions, hence illustrating that it totally protects the lives of unborn children. It does not consider the life of the mothers. Instead, it only emphasizes the need to protect the lives of unborn children.
Consequences of Ignoring the Church
The issue of abortion is a weighty one since it requires consultation with all the relevant stakeholders when formulating the ethical code to address it. The government and policymakers at large need to consider the church to establish a code that reflects the moral values of the society. On the issue of abortion, serious consequences may arise from the failure by the policymakers to consult the church. From the policymakers’ perspective, it would be imperative to allow abortion in certain situations, such as when the mother’s life is at stake. On the other hand, the church would be opposed to such proposals on the grounds that abortion amounts to the disrespect of human life (Tomašević 148).
If policymakers ignore the church when making medical ethics, perhaps abortion would be legalized in some cases. Such legalization would open up the way for irresponsible physicians to conduct unjustifiable abortions for selfish interests. The result would be that the number of infants’ death would increase, hence threatening the next generations. A decrease in the youthful population in the future would negatively affect governments economically, socially, and politically. Besides, the church spells several punishments that may be effected by God on mankind if they fail to respect His teachings. Such punishments include natural calamities, which would directly harm humankind (Tomašević 149). If the church’s position on such punishments is anything to go by, it would be imperative to consider its stipulations when formulating medical ethics.
My Opinion and Counterarguments
Based on the analysis of the issue, I would adopt a more conservative approach to the issue of abortion. On one side, I would support the church in its attempt to have abortion illegalized to protect the dignity of unborn children. The life of unborn children is as important as the lives of the rest of the population, a situation that underscores the need to protect them from any harm. The future of the world largely depends on unborn children. Hence, legalizing abortion would threaten the future of the next generations. However, other scholars such as Schlesinger argue that as much as the unborn infants need to be protected against harm, abortion needs to be legalized if it is conducted to mitigate an imminent danger to the mother (43).
The mother’s life may be more important relative to that of the unborn child since, in some cases, the mother may have several dependents (Schlesinger 43). Additionally, there is no guarantee that the unborn child will survive after birth, given the high child mortality rates. Therefore, doctors need to prioritize the mother’s life. If the pregnancy may lead to her demise, they need to approve an abortion. However, abortion should only be considered if the mother is at risk of death. Other reasons such as rape and incest should not be regarded as justifications for abortion. However, the decision to terminate the pregnancy should only be effected after approval by the concerned mother.
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The Catholic Church is central to the formulation of medical ethics. Its contribution to modern bioethics cannot be underestimated. However, controversies present themselves since the church contradicts the current legislation regarding clinical practice. A case in point is the church’s position on the issue of abortion. As it stands now, most governments across the world allow abortion to be conducted in special situations such as when the life of the mother is at risk. On the other hand, the church is entirely against any form of abortion, irrespective of the justification. The aim of fighting abortion in its entirety is to protect the dignity of the unborn kid. However, critics of the church’s position argue that it ignores the welfare of the mother while overemphasizing the dignity of the unborn child. My opinion on the issue is that mothers whose pregnancies are a threat to their lives should be allowed to do an abortion. Any other reason apart from the possible demise of the mother should not be used to justify an abortion.
De Lange, Magdalena. “Dealing with Bioethical Dilemmas: A Survey and Analysis of Responses from Ministers in the Reformed Churches in South Africa.” HTS Theological Studies, vol. 68, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-10.
De Lange’s article investigates the impact of the rapid and increasing scientific advancements on the churches’ contribution to biomedical ethics. The author believes that speedy technological and scientific advancements in the medical field have overtaken the pace at which Christian ethicists are able to contemplate and develop a logical approach to bioethical principles, including abortion. To achieve the study’s objective, the researcher developed and issued bioethical questionnaires to ministers from the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA). The questionnaires were meant to clarify specific bioethical issues confronted by the ministers in their ministry, the specific value judgment inclinations they came across during counseling sessions, and the theoretical frameworks they apply when confronted by such ethical situations. The study results highlight the need to take appropriate courses of action in bioethics through suggested approaches such as the initial bioethical training for theological students and the need to keep the ethical debate alive through workshops, short courses, and seminars for practicing ministers.
Dobbelaere, Karel, and Alfonso Pérez-Agote. The Intimate. Polity and the Catholic Church: Laws about Life, Death and the Family in So-called Catholic Countries. Leuven University Press, 2015.
The objective of this book is to provide an insight into the impact of secularism regarding the dwindled participation of the Catholic Church in ethical debates such as abortion. The authors are convinced that the influence of the Catholic Church on society’s ethical issues has declined. They illustrate this trend by comparing the past and present influences of the church on ethical debates such as the contested issue concerning when life begins. For example, according to the church, life begins at conception. As a result, abortion should be regarded as an unethical practice. According to the writers, such views would have influenced previous societies’ ethical principles. However, today, such perspectives have been met with remarkable defense by ethicists, parliamentarians, politicians, media, and professionals. The writers emphasize the need for anti-Catholics to change and consider the church’s ethical contribution, warning of dire consequences if ignored.
Hanson, Eric. The Catholic Church in World Politics. Princeton University Press, 2014.
The book aims at examining the influence of the church in the current national and international political systems, including the corresponding impact of the modern systems on internal matters of the cathedral. One of the issues the author touches on is bioethics. Hanson believes that the Catholic Church has deeply shaped the international system, citing abortion as a fundamental example. The book achieves this objective by providing a historical outlook of the Catholic Church’s participation in politics, ethics, its political organization, its political ideology, and its role in contemporary national and regional politics and ethics. The book examines systems in Western Europe, America, Eastern Europe, and the international framework that governs the rest of the structures. Regarding bioethics, the writer concludes that the Catholic Church has played an influential role in shaping ethical policies such as abortion in both national and international systems through its constant consultation with policymakers.
Kuhse, Helga, and Peter Singer. A Companion to Bioethics. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
The book provides a comprehensive outlook on bioethics for students, nurses, teachers, ethics consultants, and doctors. The authors present an elaborate introduction on the subject of bioethics. They also illustrate its (bioethics) relationship with other cadres such as law, gender, religion, and culture—one of the philosophical and bioethical issues that the writers highlight is the right to life. In the central chapters, the writers examine issues relating to embryos, fetuses, human reproduction, and life and death. In the last sections of the publication, they provide a detailed review of how the ethical issues affect the practice of healthcare. In conclusion, Kuhse and Peter incite a discussion by engaging the audience in a critical review concerning the role of ethics committees, as well as the methodology of teaching bioethics in related fields.
Schlesinger, Eugene. “From Rights to Rites: A Eucharistic Reframing of the Abortion Debate.” Anglican Theological Review, vol. 94, no. 1, 2012, pp. 37-57.
The objective of this article is to provide an insight into how most of the divisive expression on the abortion debate is toxic. In the context of the cultural climate, the writer examines the various arguments regarding rights, the beginning of life, and moral virtues. In addition, the writer uses the Eucharistic liturgy to analyze, inform, and promote the transformation of the way contemporary Christians undertake the debate. To achieve this goal, the author develops a Eucharistic bodily account, which he describes as ungraspable and indefinable. He uses it to illustrate how the various arguments on abortion are contradictory from a biblical perspective. The article supports the Eucharistic approach by denoting that it is voluntary and that it does not violate a person’s conscience. According to the author, a more Eucharistic approach should be applied to the abortion debate to promote a better future composed of virtues such as sharing and unity.
Tomašević, Luka. “Bioethics in Catholic Theology and Scientific Bioethics.” International Journal of BioMedicine, vol. 3, no. 2, 2013, pp. 145-149.
The paper is cognizant of the many ethical issues faced in the humanistic and professional worlds. One of the critical issues that the article seeks to address is the threat to human life. According to the author, life is a gift from God. As such, it needs to be respected. The article presents man as a threat not only to his life but also that of other living beings. Moreover, the writer illustrates his worry on how biocentrism has slowly replaced anthropocentrism, a Christian perspective. This situation has caused a paradoxical challenge to a man in which he has an obligation to protect nature, including life, although he does not require it (nature) to protect himself. Therefore, the script tries to answer the question of how a man can preserve life, suggesting ways in which he can find a balance between the development of modern trends and ideas and the preservation of life. One of the propositions the article makes is for man to limit his actions such as abortion through guidance by Christianity.