This is the one-page summary that was handed out to accompany the talk
that I gave in the Moses Room at the House of Lords on 24 February 2004.

Consultation on Confronting the Crisis – The Culture of Death
The House of Lords, Tuesday 24 February 2004

Dr John R. Ling,
The University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

It is 25 years since Schaeffer & Koop’s Whatever Happened to the Human Race? was published.  That landmark project 1] educated Christians about bioethics, and 2] challenged them to respond.

25 years ago it was all so much simpler.  Now, in addition to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, there is human embryo experimentation, in vitro fertilisation, eugenics, pre-natal screening, infertility, contraception, gene therapy, permanent vegetative state, cloning, and so on.

These are examples of a perverse and inhumane medicine, a medicine that has gone wrong.  They constitute the culture of death, because they can all end in the death of human beings.

Consider just three of the issues:
1] Abortion
– 184,993 abortions were performed in England & Wales during 2002.  That is about 600 each and every working day.  What sort of society deliberately puts to death its own offspring?

2] Euthanasia – the 1993 decision by the Law Lords in the Anthony Bland case opened the door. Euthanasia is now coming closer and closer – the Netherlands and Belgium have decriminalised it.  When will the UK Parliament legislate?  My guess is 2008.

3] Human embryo experimentation – consider the 80% failure rate of IVF, and the vast numbers of embryos destroyed during experimentation and storage.  Why do we strive to kill the preborn, yet also strive to create more preborn?

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of modern medical ethics and practice!

Medicine has a long and illustrious history.  Its ethics and practice originated in a combination of the Hippocratic oath and the Judaeo-Christian doctrines.  These two grand ethical pillars kept medicine safe and wholesome for over 2000 years, and created a culture of life – abortion and euthanasia were specifically forbidden.

Modern medicine has virtually jettisoned such fine ethics and practice.  It has become unprincipled and utilitarian, especially where the weak and vulnerable are concerned.  Is there a crisis? Oh, yes!

Much of modern medicine and medical science has become a prescription for a clinical, dehumanised world, where there is not much awe, little reverence and practically no dignity.

And the immediate future looks bleak. The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act will be overhauled soon to allow other objectionable procedures, such as, sex selection, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and cloning.  Parliament is also to re-examine euthanasia. In 1994, the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Medical Ethics came out resolutely against legalisation.  Times have changed, so have some minds.  The House of Lords’ Liaison Committee wants the review to start after the Easter recess.

Such moves will establish more firmly the culture of death – unless, unless, unless ….. we continue to, or even begin to:
pray – as the precondition for real change     2] educate – ourselves and others
agitate – be salt and light     4] care – for the weak and vulnerable
join and give – of our time, strength, money, and ourselves.

We are not anti-science, or anti-progress, but we contend that medicine must be practised within an ethical framework, firmly rooted in the culture of life, rather than in mere utility and cost-effectiveness.

May God grant us the wisdom and the energy to resist the culture of death and bring in the culture of life.

John R. Ling (2001). Responding to the Culture of Death – A Primer of Bioethical Issues. 128 pages, £5.99,  [ISBN 1 903087 26 0], Day One Publications, Epsom.
John R. Ling (2002). The Edge of Life – Dying, Death and Euthanasia. 288 pages, £8.99, [ISBN 1 903087 30 9], Day One Publications, Epsom.
Francis A. Schaeffer, & C. Everett Koop (1979). Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (1983) Revised US edition, [ISBN 0 891072 91 8], Crossway Books, Westchester.

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