Reflections on faith as a foundation of worldview and ethical decision making
Moral reflections on the ethical principles that bring meaning to human life are important in understanding principles on bioethics. Reflections based on faith are instrumental in demystifying suffering and the different lifestyles and cultures of people. Principles in bioethics include values such as autonomy, freedom and justice (Meilaender, 2005). Christian background and beliefs inform the debate on bioethics with reflections on the controversial issues especially in the field of medicine. Bioethics is a subject based on the quest for rights with respect to claims in healthcare.
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Christian belief provides autonomy to an individual through baptism where a believer receives unique identity from God and a destiny separated from one’s parents. Love defines the relationship that exists between Christian believers and God with emphasis on mutual respect and understanding to parents. Utmost reverence is expected on Christians towards God who is the ultimate reason for their living and faith. Individuality is brought about by communicating with God instead of personal effort. Fellowship is therefore important for Christian believers where they were called upon to bear each others’ burdens as they are considered to be different parts of the same body of Jesus Christ. Baptism therefore ushers a Christian believer into autonomous and responsible life within the community of fellow believers.
God liberates Christian believers from the bondage of sin through the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This was the greatest act of sacrifice of God who gave His only begotten son in order to save human beings. It was founded on love for the wellbeing of man. The entire process involved much suffering. Christians are therefore under obligation to help those in suffering and in need based on this background. Sin spoils human relationships and abuses that diminish the quality of life.
Reflections on Meilaender’s approach to ethics at the beginning of life
Human beings are embodied spirits who receive direction and guidance from the Holy Spirit. The created duality of the nature of human beings is based on the understanding that we were created with natural necessities and a historical background (Meilaender, 2005). Human beings discover their personality as finite beings with limitations in their nature and historical setting by submitting to guidance from God. It is through a healthy relationship with God that man gets empowered to overcome limitations in his nature and historical background. We therefore derive our human freedom from God and subsequently become conscious of self in our innovations and scientific disposition. Freedom is bestowed upon us by God who expects us to be accountable to ethical principles which are divine. Artificial research into medicine for the purposes of self creation should therefore be investigated within the boundaries of Christian ethics. Moral principles on the other hand are “deontological” in nature which explores benefits that could arise from medical technologies without emphasis on religious underpinnings (Meilaender, 2005). However, true human freedom in scientific innovation should be appreciating the duality of our nature and the shortcomings that confront us especially in reproductive health.
Human beings in their developed personhood have certain capacities which include self-consciousness and awareness. They also possess the capacity to reproduction. Personhood therefore describes the state of a human being where one acquires class in the society with rights, privileges and interests protected. Personhood is fully understood from the duality of our created nature as embodied spirits and historical dependence from the time we are conceived. Human beings without cognitive capacities are considered weaker conventionally. However, at the heart of Christian doctrine lies the moral of suffering as stipulated by the crucifixion of God.Despite of the painful experiences that accompany suffering, it is the duty of persons with godly character to show empathy to those in suffering. Suffering is therefore not considered as an evil in the Christian belief but a phenomenon that occurs to all human beings with a purpose from God.
Medicine is part of the means through which human beings are empowered by God to help those in suffering since it pursues health. Medical caregivers therefore provide support to the sick in order to reduce their suffering emotionally and physically (Meilaender, 2005). Due to human limitations that follow their created duality in creation, medical caregivers are limited in their quest to alleviate human suffering. In essence, medicine does not provide the desired wholeness to a person. The moral limits that restrict our potential as human beings curtail the desired freedom to solve problems and make right decisions. Medical interventions are quite beneficial in prevention and treating diseases except in complicated conditions such as infertility and terminal ailments.
Dependence remains the hallmark of human interaction and relationships. Personal history begins with dependence to our mothers during pregnancy in the womb and as newborn babies. This dependence continues to old age when cognitive capacities are extensively diminished. Negative and oppressive forces in the spiritual realm continue to torment human beings unless we submit to the authority and power of God for wholeness. God’s healing is automatic and does not require the assistance of human beings. However, methods human beings use to solve problems and sufferings from wicked powers are not a departure from the Christian belief in the supernatural power and authority. God therefore treats our diseases through doctors and other medical personnel. Doctors should therefore be aware of their cooperation with nature and God in alleviating human suffering. The limit with which medicine serves to treat diseases, therefore, moves us closer to God. By seeking medical help, we submit to God due to the expectation to help those in need and suffering.
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Reflections on Meilaender’s approach to ethics throughout life
Artificial reproduction is an attempt by man to exercise extended freedom to master and restructure humanity. This has resulted in medical technologies such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis as well as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (Meilaender, 2005). Parenthood can therefore shift between several people from the genetic parents, rearing parents as well as surrogate parents without emphasis on the biological bond between children and parents. We find meaning as human beings and personal significance in the biological bond that unites generations. The biological parenthood of children is therefore a heritage from the Lord. Biological parenthood, therefore, confers divine stewardship of children to parents for proper nurturing and subsequent civilization of succeeding generations.
Human beings are a combination of embodied spirits and biological animals created for a particular purpose in the generation of human beings. Our freedom is therefore limited within the lines of kinship that provide us with our identity. This is manifested through the divine commandment to respect father and mother as a gift from God. This is in appreciation of the mysterious gift of life through the biological bond that exists between children and their parents. The bond is created through the sexual union characterized by passion and ecstasy that should exist between parents (Meilaender, 2005). Children are a blessing to such a union who are begotten through love. Children are therefore not a product of our intelligent reasoning and will since the human act of love establishes childbearing on the grounds of human equality.
Mother and father reproduce themselves to a child whose cause is a result of their mutual love. The child is therefore equal to them in dignity. Procreation is both an act of love-giving and life-giving. The child, therefore, becomes an extension into the large community founded by previous generations through the act of self-giving love. Artificial means to parentage are therefore considered deceptive to the biological bond ordained by God. A couple’s desire to have children should not be treated through medicine since it is a frustration to the important lines of kinship that exist in human generations. Lines of kinship are distorted during assisted reproduction and genetic screening interventions in medicine.
The product of these technologies lacks the necessary biological bond that cements lines of kinship since sexual intercourse is bypassed (Meilaender, 2005). This is compared to contraception where sex is blurred from childbearing. Assisted reproduction and contraception, therefore, restrain sexual intercourse between husband and wife from procreation in the sanctity of marriage. Adoption seeks to facilitate the transfer of parenthood to a third party legally and through the rational will of the parties involved. The biological bond to childbearing is replaced by the rearing parent for their mutual benefit. Contraceptives promote fruitful marriages through family planning and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
However, collaborations that explore avenues to transfer sperm and ova from a couple to another are quite extreme far-fetched. Our rational will should not replace the intimacy that should characterize the process of love-giving and life-giving in marital sexual reproduction. As such, there is a biological connection to human life, childbearing, and nurturing (Meilaender, 2005). The duality of our creation limits our freedom as embodied spirits from engaging in scientific experiments that make use of animals in creating babies. Babies who are a product of laboratory experiments are mere products without the necessary nature as biological beings in dignity. The product is manufactured not begotten which therefore separates it from the important lines of kinship in human genealogy. They lack the inborn worth for human existence which cannot be achieved through scientific techniques developed by fellow human beings limited in their cognitive capacities. Babies are supposed to be a gift from God and not human experiments.
Reflections on Meilaender’s approach to ethics at the end of life
Ethical principles that regulate our relationships and interactions from incest gamy, and abortion should also guide our perceptions regarding artificial reproduction. Life has its genesis in God and is sustained through His spirit. Every person conscious of self has a unique history from the rest of the world as well as a biological connection to God. Our freedom to develop the creation of God is therefore restricted from self-creation at least through scientific experimentation. At old age when cognitive capacities fail, human beings surrender to God their creator in death (Meilaender, 2005).
Meilaender, G. (2005). Bioethics: a primer for Christians. London: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.