Bioethics – the Current Challenge

Bioethics can be a miserable affair.  Think of the millions of pounds spent trying to reduce the numbers of teenage pregnancies, yet they continue to soar.  So do abortions – the latest UK figures are the highest ever. Sexually-transmitted diseases are rampant.  Human embryos are being used more and more in destructive experiments.  Human cloning, of the therapeutic variety, has recently been given the green light.  And to top it all, euthanasia is back on the political agenda.

Can anyone keep up with these changes?  Do we even need to try?  Yes, we do.  And here is why – all of the above issues strike at the very heart of what it means to be human, to be made in the image of God.  This is what makes us different from the rest of the created order – we are not mere animals.

When we give up on the family as the divinely-appointed unit of society, when we turn a blind eye to promiscuous and underage sex, when we kill the unborn up to 24 weeks, when we declare that human embryos are merely biological materials, when we consider that the elderly are a costly nuisance, then we are in deep, deep trouble.  It means that we are well on the road to the wholesale manipulation, exploitation and trivialisation of human life.  It means that we are losing the battle for the dignity of man.  It means that we are failing to be salt and light.

Hence the importance of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.  This Bill, introduced by Lord Joffe, is currently being considered by a Select Committee of the House of Lords.  Affinity has already presented its views on this awful Bill – the submission can be read at

Parliamentary watchers considered that this Bill is unlikely to become law – but that is not the point.  It is the message that the Select Committee will finally send out that is crucial.  And many believe that it will recommend some serious changes to the law that will allow euthanasia to enter by the back door.

Some readers may find it hard to believe just what is being proposed in this Bill. It really does make for chilling reading.  Consider just one proposal. It is found on p. 8 and line 14.  It reads, ‘I request that my attending physician assist me to die.’  That alone should make us shudder.

So, what can we do?  It is too late now to write to the Select Committee.  But we can pray for them as they meet in the coming months – some of its members are good people and we should pray that they will prevail.  We should also get to grips with the euthanasia issue – a good place to start is my book, The Edge of Life – Dying, Death and Euthanasia published by Day One (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?).  I have sent copies to each of the Select Committee members.

Then we should resolve to grasp the wider issues of dying and death.  All of us will have to face it for ourselves, as well as for our loved ones in the not-too-distant future.  While we remain unsure about dying and death we will be uncertain about the great Christian hope and therefore less helpful to ourselves, our families, and our neighbours.  May this truly dreadful Bill spur us to greater usefulness.

Dr John R. Ling is a freelance bioethicist,

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