Christian bioethics and the common moral myths - #4, 2020

Ethical questions in medicine emerge from serious contradictions: the tensions between costs and profit, between private liabilities and universal morality. Such questions cast a wide shadow and concern upon all those involved in medicine and healthcare: doctors, patients and their relatives, public servants at all levels and medical administrative staff. All too often, medical bioethics has become a kind of ideology, where people use certain universal ethical standpoints to attempt to establish moral authority from the perspective of an exclusively rational view of ethics, justice and appropriate behaviour. For this reason, bioethics stresses abstract universal concepts – ‘human rights’, ‘equality’, ‘human dignity,’ and so on. This approach is founded on a contemporary belief that all humans are connected with each other on an ethical basis, regardless of religion, culture or specific moral convictions.

Moreover, the present situation in medicine is such that many questions about morality remain unresolved, both in Russia and abroad; there are many answers to these questions, and there is a widespread view that there can be no single reliable way of making a rational choice between them. People hold divergent understandings of justice, and also disagree as to the circumstances under which it is permissible to end a person’s life, to perform an abortion or to commit euthanasia. The hierarchy of values is under dispute. This divergence is apparent if one compares the varying legal systems and practices in different countries.

Is it possible to contend that the role of bioethics is to establish universal moral and ethical decisions that cover the entire range of contemporary medical practices? Or should we rather acknowledge the impossibility of attaining a public moral consensus regarding healthcare, at the same time recognizing that there is no value in pursuing further research into bioethics? What suggestions can be offered by Christianity and the Church in such an increasingly complex environment? What can a Christian approach to the foundations of bioethics bring to contemporary medicine? Can an approach based on a Christian worldview provide some clarity to the often confused current situation in healthcare issues?

We invite contributors to discuss these questions and to introduce to the reader the ideas of H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr., American professor and founder of the concept of Christian bioethics. We invite historians, sociologists, philosophers, theologians and doctors to participate in this discussion, as well as those who have examined the strategies and materials of particular cases and who have experience in resolving prevailing bioethical problems in contemporary medicine, both in Russia and other countries. This publication invites contributions on the Christian tradition of handling bioethical questions, as well as on today’s secular approaches.