Author Summary Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.
Neaves W. The status of the human embryo in various religions. Development 2017 144: 2541-2543; doi: 10.1242/dev.151886
Abstract Vaccine refusal occurs for a variety of reasons. In this article we examine vaccine refusals that are made on conscientious grounds that is, for religious, moral, or philosophical reasons. We focus on two questions: first, whether people should be entitled to conscientiously object to vaccination against contagious diseases (either for themselves or for their children) second, if so, to what constraints or requirements should conscientious objection (CO) to vaccination be subject. To address these questions, we consider an analogy between CO to vaccination and CO to military service. We argue that conscientious objectors to vaccination should make an appropriate contribution to society in lieu of being vaccinated. The contribution to be made will depend on the severity of the relevant disease(s), its morbidity, and also the likelihood that vaccine refusal will lead to harm. In particular, the contribution required will depend on whether the rate of CO in a given population threatens herd immunity to the disease in question: for severe or highly contagious diseases, if the population rate of CO becomes high enough to threaten herd immunity, the requirements for CO could become so onerous that CO, though in principle permissible, would be de facto impermissible.
Abstract This article uses a chance encounter with a supermarket checkout clerk as an occasion for reframing contemporary debates about workplace accommodations and the religious politics of contraception. Scholarship on workplace religion has tended to assume a rigid distinction between the religious spaces in which conscience is formed and the secular spaces to which claims of conscience are brought. In contrast, I argue that we might productively redescribe employee claims of conscience as corporately produced, rather than emanating from the realm of the private or personal. I reimagine the workplace as an important site of ethical subject formation, as a space in and through which moral claims are constituted, rather than to which they are brought, and I explore how accommodations can produce the very differences they are meant to protect. In this way, my discussion reveals how legal mandates and corporate policies join together to produce new moral subjects.
Abstract This article presents the case of a Romanian Orthodox Christian patient in the United States suffering from bipolar disorder. The patient had no family in the United States, and a community of parishioners from the Romanian Orthodox Church, including one of the authors, Mariana Cuceu (MC), cared for him after he was discharged from a psychiatric ward. The case serves as a starting point for exploring the duty of physicians not only to avoid harm but to do good, the importance of coordinating care for such patients and attending to their religious and spiritual needs, as well as the role of the community of Orthodox Christian faithful in responding to the command that we love one another.
Abstract When physicians today appeal to “conscience,” it has been alleged such exercises pejoratively reflect “conscience without consequence” as contemporary practitioners are said to be insulated from the consequences of such decisions. It has also been implied these physicians avoid traditional professional responsibilities—including providing charity care and making house or night calls. The assertions demand clarification. Fundamentally, what traits constitute an integrated professionalism specific to Christian physicians? Historical evidence verifies sanctity-of-life affirmations by Christian physicians throughout Church history. However, surveying Christian medical practices in the initial centuries of the Common Era, and more recently in the United States, supports integration of conscience with philanthropy and a rigorous definition of a medical vocation. These suggest there may be deterioration in a holistic commitment to medicine in the United States. Reclaiming an integrated professional paradigm—wherein conscience, philanthropia, and vocation are combined—is essential to an authentic contemporary witness.
Abstract Christian bioethics starts with different metaphysical, epistemological, and teleological assumptions. It starts with God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe who as the second person of the Godhead became incarnate as our Redeemer and Lord. Morality reflects God’s nature and is known through reason and intuition guided by revelation. The end of a Christian bioethics is to discover the way our God intends for us to live and to discover the type of person He intends for us to be in order to live a holy and sanctified life. Christian bioethicists will seek integration among their core beliefs and between their beliefs and actions, and they will bear witness to their beliefs in a world that is not yet redeemed. Each contribution in this issue represents an example of these types of Christian integration. Each bears witness to the fact that a Christian bioethics is different.
Abstract Many proponents of euthanasia eschew appeals to religious premises as good reasons for thinking that human life has intrinsic worth. The reasons offered are that religious reasons do not meet some theory-neutral epistemic standard. My first argument is to show that pro-euthanasia arguments fail to meet those same standards. In order to avoid this incoherence, the rejection of religious reasons is a function of thinking that such reasons are simply false. Arguing against religious belief has typically fallen to the evidential argument from evil. My second argument is to show that the argument from evil must hold to a basic goods account of human life. Such an account is contrary to the view of human life held by most euthanasia proponents. So, euthanasia proponents who reject religious belief on the basis of an argument from evil must hold to a contradictory view of human worth. One cannot both be a euthanasia proponent and reject arguments against euthanasia (that are based in part on religious premises). I explore ways to resolve this tension, but none save pro-euthanasia arguments.
Dylan Dahlgren, Fred Koning, John Sloan, Timothy Christie
Abstract Background: The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has ruled that the federal government is required to remove the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada that prohibit medical assistance in dying (MAID). The SCC has stipulated that individual physicians will not be required to provide MAID should they have a religious or conscientious objection. Therefore, the pending legislative response will have to balance the rights of the patients with the rights of physicians, other health care professionals, and objecting institutions.
Objective: The objective of this paper is to critically assess, within the Canadian context, the moral probity of individual or institutional objections to MAID that are for either religious or conscientious reasons.
Methods: Deontological ethics and the Doctrine of Double Effect.
Results: The religious or conscientious objector has conflicting duties, i.e., a duty to respect the “right to life” (section 7 of the Charter) and a duty to respect the tenets of his or her religious or conscientious beliefs (protected by section 2 of the Charter).
Conclusion: The discussion of religious or conscientious objections to MAID has not explicitly considered the competing duties of the conscientious objector. It has focussed on the fact that a conscientious objection exists and has ignored the normative question of whether the duty to respect one’s conscience or religion supersedes the duty to respect the patient’s right to life.
Debra B. Stulberg, Rebecca A. Jackson, Lori R. Freedman
Abstract Context: Catholic hospitals control a growing share of health care in the United States and prohibit many common reproductive services, including ones related to sterilization, contraception, abortion and fertility. Professional ethics guidelines recommend that clinicians who deny patients reproductive services for moral or religious reasons provide a timely referral to prevent patient harm. Referral practices in Catholic hospitals, however, have not been explored.
Methods: Twenty-seven obstetrician-gynecologists who were currently working or had worked in Catholic facilities participated in semistructured interviews in 2011–2012. Interviews explored their experiences with and perspectives on referral practices at Catholic hospitals. The sample was religiously and geographically diverse. Referral-related themes were identified in interview transcripts using qualitative analysis.
Results: Obstetrician-gynecologists reported a range of practices and attitudes in regard to referrals for prohibited services. In some Catholic hospitals, physicians reported that administrators and ethicists encouraged or tolerated the provision of referrals. In others, hospital authorities actively discouraged referrals, or physicians kept referrals hidden. Patients in need of referrals for abortion were given less support than those seeking referrals for other prohibited services. Physicians received mixed messages when hospital leaders wished to retain services for financial reasons, rather than have staff refer patients elsewhere. Respondents felt referrals were not always sufficient to meet the needs of low-income patients or those with urgent medical conditions.
Conclusions: Some Catholic hospitals make it difficult for obstetrician-gynecologists to provide referrals for comprehensive reproductive services.
Extract [The Supreme Court of Canada decision to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide “is in abeyance until June 2016.”]. . . Trouble is, not many physicians seem willing to assist. . . . overall, it is clear that a majority of Canadian doctors polled refuse to participate in physician assisted dying.
. . . This article argues that whether doctors do or do not have the right to refuse to treat patients on conscientious or religious grounds is neither a difficult nor a novel legal issue. Patients and doctors have clashed on this issue before, and when they have, tribunals and courts have overwhelmingly sided with the patients over the doctors. . .