Theologian Gina Menzies presented a masterclass overview of bioethics to the We Are Church meeting on 14 November 2016.
Some sample issues facing medical practitioners today:
* Organ donation (do YOU carry a donor card? Opt in vs Opt Out)(Film "Dirty, pretty things" about illicit organ taking)
* Force feeding anorexic patients
* Blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses approved by courts
* Assisted dying
* Assisted reproduction (First case: Louise Brown in UK (1978); in Ireland 2005 report with 40 recommendations still not enacted)
* Abortion - currently a live issue regarding Article 8
* Distribution of health care budgets (vaccine for millions or medication to save a small number with a rare condition?)
* Embryonic stem cell research
The advances in bioethics have come from:
* Medical advances
* Nuremberg trials of Nazi doctors who claimed all their work was research; but no consent given by the victims
* Scandals highlighted by Dr Beecher (USA) and Dr Pappworth (UK)
* The Information highway - the internet offers cures for everything - but can you trust this information?
* The change from Paternalism to Partnership model in the Doctor-Patient relationship
New Ethics have changed, influenced by:
* Reacting to the signs of the times
* Primacy of conscience
* The reality of the messiness of life
* From Rule based morality to one of Personal Responsibility
* Not always ready made answers to ethical dilemas
* The challenge posed by new science and medicine
* Theological influence has waned hugely with the churches opposition to contraception, assisted human reproduction, abortion, assisted dying, embryonic stem cell research
"Death Cafe's" have been set up where guests are encouraged to talk about how they might like to die. Each of us should think about our own deaths and let our wishes be known.
Many thanks to Gina for a most fascinating talk!
Photo: Bernadette O'Reilly presenting a gift to Gina Menzies