Sometimes we feel as if everything around us is changing so quickly that we can’t keep up. When our children were small, we would get two sets of prints to give to grandparents. Today, parents can share photos by text message, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Picasa, and Shutterfly. The questions used to be about who to send photos to; today, we are wrestling with privacy and out pictures getting into the wrong hands.
We are facing new challenges in the world of bioethics as well. The questions of a generation ago are changing, and technology is moving so rapidly that it is hard to evaluate what it means. That’s a good reason to pause, step back, and think about the changes around us.
This is what The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity will be doing at our annual summer conference this June. The theme says it all: “Bioethics in Transition.” Medicine, science, and technology are moving ahead at breakneck speed, and all around the world. Medical advances that used to be considered miraculous are now interwoven into our everyday expectations. Research is delving into areas that once were off limits. How dowe know what to celebrate, and what to be worried about?
The Center has invited a panel of international experts to help us pause, step back, and think about where bioethics has been, and anticipate where it is going. Let me give you an example of an issue in transition:
In my early years in the prolife movement, the core discussion about the embryo was whether it was a human being. From there, the issue moved to using leftover embryos from IVF for research. In 1994, the Washington Post editorial page said it’s okay to use existing embryos, but opposed creating them for research. Twenty years later, the Washington Post did a 180: Cloning made-to-order cloned embryos for research is acceptable, but not to produce a baby (even though the techniques for creating them would be the same). The ethical boundary lines keep moving.
Here’s another arena that has shifted. Fifty years ago, the focus of medical ethics was on patient autonomy. Today, we are confronting global issues such as organ trafficking and pandemics. Patient autonomy doesn’t help in these situations.
It’s time to rethink the ethical paradigms. As Christians, we know that biblical theological truth is relevant to all of bioethics…if we take time to reflect and reframe.
I’d like to invite you to join the conversation at our conference this June 19-21. Not only can you hear world class speakers, but you can also enjoy short paper presentations, and workshops on relevant issues, such as “how does social media affect how we think about ethics?”
The world is changing. Bioethics is in transition. Come, and explore with us how we can move into the next decades with godly wisdom, confidence, and a fresh perspective.