07 March, 2009

More controversial than abortion

I stumbled mentally yesterday as I saw a headline for the NYTimes that was not about jobs or the economy, but rather about stem cell research.

It covered the usual notes about how embryonic stem cell research can be seen as a way to get at "real science" or as the destruction of a human soul. For me, it's much more controversial than abortion. After working in a hospital this past summer with many opportunities to discuss ethical practices as well as where the questions of ethics are going in the next few years, I have added hundreds of questions with very few answers. (So bear with me; I'm hoping for some open dialogue to work through my thoughts)

My culture supports the sciences and I do think it's amazing what has been achieved in the minimal years I've even been around; my religious conviction supports the reverence of all life. Still I don't find myself wondering if abortion should be legalized (although many of my feelings about abortion stem--no pun intended--from the following view). My concern is based off of our control issues: How much control are we allowed before life becomes unnatural?

One main example from the past summer was a man's father who had a defibrillator, which shocks his heart back into action when it stops. At first, his family rejoiced because no one felt their dad/grandpa should've been held down by a faulty heart, but now...he isn't so sure of the choice. His dad is getting older and it's possible that his time has come but technology has come further.

The two sides are confusing and controversial for me--I want to hold onto my loved ones but at what cost?

Theologically, I would never want to be in the "God's position," although many subconsciously hold that as their spiritual goal. I've found it more exhausting than fulfilling when I've tried. Culturally, I find death to be another hurdle (that last 10 pounds to go before you've reached the perfect weight--a metaphor for another day) to jump before we can make it on our own. We don't honor it as a beautiful fact and fulfillment in life to celebrate.

Why? Because we don't want to believe the one thing we know is true--we are going to die. Just as (and I know I'm being very inclusive with my language) we don't want to believe that we need to depend on someone other than ourselves, ESPECIALLY when that "person" has been presented as something other than the well-educated doctor or scientist that has a tangible cure.

It is why I have a hard time saying whether abortion should be allowed (in many cases), or that embryos should be used for something other than fertilization. When should one expect science to do the living...and do they die in doing so?


higgy said...

"His dad is getting older and it's possible that his time has come but technology has come further."

This deals with the "intent of God." What does God intend for us? In terms of death, when is it "our time to die." Does extending our lives beyond that point via modern technology go against God's will?

I don't think so. God gave us the gifts of intelligence and creativity. By using them for good, we honor God. Few people would claim that saving lives with modern medicine goes against God's will. But what about extending a person's life? We do that already by learning how the body functions, and then designing and advocating a healthy lifestyle; regular exercise, balanced diets, avoiding harmful substances.

These things are considered "natural" ways of extending someone's life, while jump-starting a stopped heart is frowned upon for being "unnatural." But what evidence do we have that God prefers one over the other? Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Ultimately, I think that decisions of this sort do not contain an aspect of "goodness" or "wrongness" in the eyes of God. A person dies when a person dies, and the question of whether or not it is the "right time" lacks real meaning.

Eremita said...

Except, and I think higgy would accept this, there does seem to be meaning to the "right time" when it refers to when a person would PREFER to die. I think we can absolutely ascribe meaning to someone saying, "this is so painful, I should have died a year ago." I imagine sympathy for this kind of situation motivates the viewpoint giving people the medical right to choose, or at least refuse, treatments.

Eremita said...
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